The Europa League group stage starts tonight with some big teams in action, including Chelsea and Arsenal. Read our preview to the main fixtures below.
Chelsea’s forgotten midfielders given opportunity to impress
The arrival of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic at Stamford Bridge over the summer has pushed Chelsea’s other creative midfielders to the periphery, with the two newcomers having made nine starts between them already this season. The latter’s presence, albeit only on a year-long loan deal, has been particularly bad news for Ruben Loftus-Cheek after he made 21 league starts for Crystal Palace last season. Maurizio Sarri blocked a loan move for the England international in August, stating that he would have chances to play. If he, along with Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley, can prove their worth against PAOK, then it can only be a good thing for the Blues.
Emery to continue the development of his Arsenal team
Unai Emery is a three-time Europa League winner after a dominant spell with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016. He must now repeat the achievement with new side Arsenal, who could only make the semi-finals last season. They begin their second consecutive campaign in the Europa League against Vorskla tonight, and Emery had stated that he will field his regular line-up in an attempt to maintain the side’s rhythm following three consecutive wins. One expected change will see Bernd Leno make his debut in goal. Considering Petr Cech’s struggles so far this season, tonight’s line-up could well offer a glimpse of the Gunners’ future.
Can Eintracht Frankfurt take advantage of Marseille’s empty stadium?
Eintracht Frankfurt return to the Europe League tonight after a four year absence, but it’s safe to say that their fans were hoping for a more glorious welcome. The German outfit’s supporters will not be able to attend their team’s match away to Marseille after the French team were punished by UEFA for failing to control their own fans. The game will instead take place inside an empty Stade Velodrome which, although unfortunate for the Frankfurt faithful, could serve the players well. The visitors have only lost one of their previous eight away games in the competition and Marseille might just struggle without their famously vocal support.
RB Salzburg face their identical twin
The fixture between RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg raised eyebrows as soon as the group stage draw was made at the end of last month. The German side’s owners have had to go to great lengths to prove that the club is not linked to their Austrian opponents, which is somewhat undermined by the fact that they have almost identical names, kits and badges. Salzburg are Europa League regulars, while Leipzig are making their debut in the group stage after they finished sixth in last season’s Bundesliga. Can Salzburg put their experience to good use here?
Anderlecht have ideal opportunity to return to winning ways
After a blistering start to the season that saw them score 13 goals in four straight league wins, Anderlecht have hit a stumbling block, taking just one point from their last three matches. They can therefore look to tonight’s match against Spartak Trnava to find their confidence once again. Their Slovakian opponents have never played in the tournament before and come into this match on the back of two straight league defeats. Anderlecht could not ask for more accommodating opponents to end their winless run.