On the back of last season’s lacklustre performances, Chelsea have to settle for Europa League football this term but after Friday’s draw, it might not be as bad as the fans first thought. The Blues had to wait for the final group to be pulled out of pot 1 and they were joined in Group L by BATE Borisov, PAOK and Vidi.
By being pulled out alongside those three teams, it meant the former winners avoided sides such as AC Milan, Marseille, Sporting Lisbon, RB Leipzig and the Scottish contingent of Celtic and Rangers. However, by avoiding such teams it does mean there’ll be a high amount of Thursday night travelling.
BATE are based in Belarus, while a trip to Greece is in order when they face PAOK and Hungary calls for the clash with Vidi. Each away trip involves a round trip of well over 2,000 miles which will often come two days before a league clash on the succeeding Sunday afternoon.
Arsenal were dealt a group that they should progress from, with Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag and FK Vorskla being their Group E opponents. The Portuguese giants will provide the main challenge in that group. Celtic, on the other hand, will find it much harder to make the knockout stage after being drawn with both Red Bull sides: Salzburg and Leipzig as well as Rosenborg.
Rangers, who make up the British foursome, have a chance of progression with Villarreal being their biggest challenge alongside Rapid Wien and Spartak Moscow. Chelsea certainly have the greatest opportunity to progress further in the competition in a group with three teams that most regular football fans won’t have heard of.
Maurizio Sarri has made it clear that the league is his main priority and that European involvement will take a backseat which is where some of the younger fringe players will be given a first-team chance.