All you need to know about Chelsea's Europa League 2018-19 campaign
The UEFA Europa League 2018-19 Draw has just concluded in the beautiful city of Monaco, with the 48 participants drawn into 12 Groups of 4 teams each, ranging from Group A to Group L. Last year's winners Atletico Madrid will play the Champions League this season and unless they disappoint there, which is very unlikely, we will have new winners of the Europa League this season.
After a disappointing last season, regular Champions League contenders Chelsea are back to the Europa League this season. A very interesting piece of trivia is the fact that the last time Chelsea played the Europa League they went on to win it in 2013 under Rafa Benitez. Just before 2013 Chelsea were Champions League winners in 2012, and this is a feat no club has achieved yet, to win back to back different European titles.
Chelsea to play in Group L of UEL 2018-19
Chelsea were in Pot 1, as they directly qualified for the Europa League by finishing 5th in the Premier League last year and so were bound to avoid the likes of Villareal, Sevilla and Leverkusen. Also, they cannot be drawn with Arsenal in the same group, as two teams from the same association cannot play together in one group due to UEFA's rules.
Chelsea were drawn in Group L after the conclusion of the draw of the teams in Pot 1.
Chelsea's Opponents in Group L
The English club were drawn against PAOK FC from Greece, FC BATE Borisov from Belarus and Vidi FC (Hungary). This seems like a cakewalk for Maurizio Sarri's side, considering they have avoided the likes of AC Milan and Marseille from the other pots. Also, these teams do not look to threaten the West Londoners' European dominance. It will be an interesting thing to see which team finishes second in the group. Let's take a detailed look at their opponents from the group stages.
#1 PAOK FC (Greece)
PAOK FC finished second in the Greek Superleague which saw AEK Athens finishing as Champions. But PAOK defended their Greek Football Cup title that they won in 2017. Under Manager Razvan Lucescu they will play their 60th consecutive season in the Greek top flight football and this team surely knows a thing or two about winning, having won the league twice during their existence.
Europa League Finish Last Season: Play-off round (Lost on away goals to Ostersund FC, Sweden)
Most Important Player: Aleksander Prijovic (Scored 27 goals last season)
Home Ground: Toumba Stadium, Greece
Threat to Chelsea FC: PAOK FC will not be a threat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but the away leg in Greece might turn out difficult for the Londoners, due to the different weather conditions. Aleksander Prijovic is a serious goal-scoring threat, which should not be taken very lightly.
#2 FC BATE Borisov (Belarus)
Champions of Belarus, FC BATE Borisov have a good amount of Champions League and Europa League experience under their belt. They are a regular contestant at European level, and even if they do no mount a serious title challenge, they can be explosive in their counter-attacks and their on-field experience during the games.
They have been winning the Belarusian Premier League title consecutively for 11 years straight, the most recent being last season and have won the title 13 times in total.
Europa League Finish Last Season: Group stages (Suffered heavy defeats from Arsenal last season in the Group Stages)
Most Important Player: Mikhail Gordeichuk (Top Scorer last season)
Home Ground: Borisov Arena, Belarus
Threat to Chelsea: Arsenal scored 10 goals in 2 games against BATE Borisov in last year's Europa League Edition, and on a whole the team conceded 16 goals, having scored just 6 against the other teams in the group. Chelsea do not face a big threat from BATE, and it will be a cakewalk for them against the Belarusian Champions.
#3 MOL Vidi FC (Hungary)
Having changed their name to Videoton FC, MOL Vidi FC - runners-up in the UEFA Cup competition in 1985, have not been a consistent team in European competitions. It qualified for the UEFA Europa League for the first time in the 2012-13 season after winning the Hungarian league title in 2012. But, they have never proceeded to the playoff rounds of the competition in their history, even if having a strong history in the UEFA Cup competition.
Europa League Finish Last Season: Did not qualify (Lost in 1st Qualifying Round)
Most Important Player: Davide Lanzafame (Top scorer last season)
Home Ground: Pancho Arena, Hungary
Threat to Chelsea: The one single threat Chelsea face is Vidi FC's rising ambitions after qualifying this season for the Europa League. As they failed to qualify last season they will be looking to prove a point at least in the group stages this season by giving the top clubs a tough fight.
That's all about Chelsea's group stage action from the Europa League 2018-19. It will be totally dependent on two things if they can go on to win the trophy this year. Firstly, avoiding the top teams in the competition in the early stages of the play-off matches; And secondly, avoiding any top team that gets demoted to the Europa League from the Champions League,after the group stages.
Maurizio Sarri would definitely be happy after Chelsea's easy Europa League draw. Do let us know in the comments below, what you think of Chelsea's chances of winning the Europa League this season!