UEFA Europa League title holders Sevilla will play Feyenoord in the group stages of the 2014/15 competition.
The defending champions were top seeds for the draw in Monaco, and were allocated to Group G where they have been paired with last season’s Eredivisie runners-up.
Joining them in Group G are Belgian side Standard Liege and Croatian outfit Rijeka.
The Sevillistas are bidding for their fourth title in the space of nine years, but they face tough competition from their three opponents – two of whom fell from the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds.
Feyenoord pose the La Liga side’s greatest threat having won this event twice in 1974 and 2002, but this season marked their first appearance in European competition for four years and now remarkably, their first ever appearance in the group phase of this competition.
They were runners-up to Ajax in the Dutch top flight last season and entered the Champions League in the penultimate qualifying round, where they were rather easily swept aside by Turkish outfit Besiktas. Their passage into the group stages of this event were secured with a 5-4 aggregate win over Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk.
Standard Liege are looking for an improvement on last year’s competition when they were knocked out in the group phase. They reached the quarter-finals of the 2009/10 tournament and will be hoping for a similar run this year.
Like Feyenoord, they finished second in the Belgian top flight behind Anderlecht and also entered the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Despite overcoming Greek side Panathinaikos, they were given a real footballing lesson from a Hulk-inspired Zenit Saint Petersburg in the play-off.
Croatian cup winners Rijeka are back for a second consecutive season in the competition. Like last year they have won three qualifying ties to reach the group stages, but they will be looking to notch up their first win this time around at the very least.
La Liga’s other representative Villarreal are returning to continental football after a two-season absence. They finished sixth in the Primeria Division and were among the top seeds in the draw, after overcoming Astana of Kazakhstan in the play-off round.
They were allocated to Group A along with three other sides who entered the competition in the final qualifying round – Borussia Monchengladbach, who also finished sixth in the German Bundesliga, Swiss cup winners FC Zurich, and third-placed Apollon Limassol of Cyprus.
Both Spanish sides shouldn’t have too much difficulty in reaching the knockout stages; it’s just a case of either top or second place. The travelling doesn’t look to bad either, but Villarreal will be hoping their trip to Cyprus doesn’t leave them too fatigued for their next La Liga fixture.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms