Trabzonspor and Fenerbahçe are launching their Europa League group stage campaigns on September 8, hoping to go far after missing out on the Champions League.
Last season, Süper Lig champions Trabzonspor, who was knocked out by Copenhagen in the Champions League play-offs, travels to Hungary to play Ferencvaros in a Group H match. Red Star Belgrade receives Monaco in the other match of the group.
Fenerbahçe, meanwhile, is kicking off its Group B campaign at home against Dynamo Kiev, which will play its home games in the Polish city of Krakow as the war continues to rage in his home country.
The group also includes AEK Larnaca of Greek Cyprus and French club Rennes.
Two other Turkish clubs will compete in the Conference League, with Başakşehir visiting Hearts of Scotland and Sivasspor hosting Czech club Slavia Prague in their first group matches of the season.
Premier League heavyweights Manchester United and Arsenal are starting out as the top contenders for this season’s Europa League, although Jose Mourinho’s Roma are keeping an eye on consecutive continental titles after winning the inaugural Europa Conference League earlier this year.
It’s a long way to go to this season’s final at Budapest’s Puskas Arena on May 31, 2023, with clubs lined up to complete the group stage before the World Cup in Qatar kicks off on November 20.
That means United and Arsenal will rely on the depth of their roster to see them through some of their less glamorous Thursday night matches as they try to maintain challenges at the top of the Premier League.
Returning to the Champions League should be the priority for both, although winning Europe’s second-class trophy is one way to get there.
Eintracht Frankfurt was the surprise winner last season, beating Rangers in a breathtaking final in Seville, and it is noteworthy that the last four trophy winners have all started the campaign in the Europa League group stage, rather than from the Champions League to fall.
The last club to drop out of the European elite club competition and win the Europa League was Atletico Madrid in 2018.
Erik ten Hag’s United should not face too many obstacles as Group E advances against Real Sociedad, Sheriff Tiraspol and Neil Lennon’s Omonia Nicosia.
Real Sociedad, who finished sixth in La Liga last season, travel to Old Trafford for the opening game with 36-year-old David Silva in tow but without Alexander Isak following the Swedish striker’s departure to Newcastle United.
Arsenal, which have made a good start in the Premier League, have ended up in a Champions League group in the sense that all three opponents have dropped out of the preliminaries of that competition.
But none of them will frighten Mikel Arteta’s team, as Ruud van Nistelrooy’s PSV Eindhoven lost to Rangers in the Champions League play-offs.
They will also face Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt in Group A, but will leave for FC Zurich first.
Roma is an intriguing prospect as it looks set to continue its Conference League victory by winning a league that Mourinho has held in his hands twice before, including United in 2017.
One of the group stage opponents is Real Betis, whose coach Manuel Pellegrini was Mourinho’s predecessor at Real Madrid more than a decade ago.