FC Köln Draw Arsenal in Europa League

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FC Köln have drawn one of the major clubs in this season’s Europa League as they will face Arsenal in the group stage of this season’s competition.

The Bundesliga side will also be up against BATE Borisov and Red Star Belgrade. Peter Stöger’s side qualified for the competition after finishing fifth last season.

However, it hasn’t been a dream start domestically for the Billy Goats this season as they were beaten 1-0 at rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach in their opening game last weekend.

Their Europa League campaign kicks off at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Thursday 14 September before their first game at the Rhein Energie Arena is at home to Red Star Belgrade two weeks later.

Köln travel to BATE Borisov for their third game on 19 October before hosting the Belarusian champions a fortnight later.  Then they host Arsenal on 23 November before finishing the group in Belgrade on 7 December.

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Arsenal finished fifth in the Premier League last season and surprised many by both beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final and then giving manager Arsene Wenger a new two-year contract.  Star player Alexis Sanchez has been strongly linked with a move away from North London this summer, whilst German international Mesut Ozil heads into the final year of his contract.  The final week of the summer transfer window could be a nervous time for fans of the club.

Whether Wenger will play a strong team in the Europa League is not yet known, with his priority thought to be challenging for the Premier League title or at least getting back into the Champions League via a top four finish.  They were runners-up in this competition in the year 2000.

BATE Borisov have won the Belarusian Premier League for each of the past 11 seasons and have had a couple of Champions League campaigns during this period.  They notably beat Bayern Munich 3-1 at home in the group stage of the 2012-13 competition.

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Their squad mostly consists of home grown players and no household names.  BATE reached the group stage with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Ukrainian side Oleksandria in the playoff round.

Red Star Belgrade were runners-up in the Serbian SuperLiga last season and have won their domestic top flight twice in the past four seasons.  They have started the new season winning their opening five domestic games this season, conceding just one goal.  Aleksandar Pesic and Richmond Boakye are their star strikers whilst Slavoljub Srnic scores from midfield.

The Serbian side had to overcome Floriana (6-3), Irtysh Pavlodar (3-1), Sparta Prague (3-0) and Krasnodar on away goals (4-4) to reach the group stage.

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