English clubs relish journeys into unknown
By Christian Radnedge
(Reuters) - Officials from Arsenal and Everton were both relishing the prospect of new frontiers after the Europa League groups were drawn on Friday.
Although the Gunners are missing out on Champions League football for the first time in 20 years, a club spokesperson told Reuters that it was a good opportunity to take the players and fans to new destinations after they were drawn in group H with Belarus champions BATE Borisov, Red Star Belgrade of Serbia and FC Cologne of Germany.
"It's a strong group with some fascinating ties and some trips to new clubs and countries for our fans," the spokesperson said. "We are all looking forward to the competition getting underway in September."
Arsenal, who finished as runners up in the competition in 2000, begin this season's European campaign at home against Cologne on Sept. 14.
Everton, meanwhile, make their return to European competition after three years and will face a stern test in group E alongside last season's semi-finalists Olympique Lyonnais, Serie A side Atalanta and Apollon Limassol of Cyprus.
Manager Ronald Koeman, who led Everton to the tournament in his debut season on Merseyside, was aware of the difficulties posed by the French and Italian sides.
"It is a good, strong group. Lyon is a strong team and Atalanta an Italian team that is also strong," he said.
"I think all the teams are in good parts of Europe, where it's easy to travel to. It's tough but it's tough for everybody."
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge, editing by Neil Robinson)