The UEFA Europa League group stage draw was held on Friday in Istanbul, with Turkish clubs Fenerbahçe and Trabzonspor confirmed to play against France’s Rennes and Monaco, respectively. Fenerbahçe is placed in Group B with Dynamo Kyiv, Rennes and AEK Larnaca while Trabzonspor is in Group H with Red Star Belgrade, Monaco and Ferencvaros.
In other draws, Manchester United will start another season in the Europa League in a group with Real Sociedad, Sheriff and Omonoia. Manchester United, which won the Europa League in 2017 and was the beaten finalist two years ago, entered the second-tier competition by placing just sixth in the Premier League last season. It was unclear Friday if Cristiano Ronaldo will still be at the club for the first round of games on Sept. 8, with more speculation linking him to a move from Old Trafford, this time with Napoli, which is in the Champions League. On Thursday, Napoli was drawn into the same group as Liverpool. The draw brings United face-to-face again with long-time Manchester City favorite David Silva, who returned to Spain to play for Sociedad, and two of the longest journeys to away games in the draw, to Moldova and Cyprus. Arsenal’s fifth Europa League campaign in six seasons will be in a group with PSV Eindhoven, coached by former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, Bodo/Glimt and Zürich.
The Europa League starts early this season on Sept. 8 and ends more than one month sooner than usual on Nov. 3. That is because of the World Cup in Qatar, which starts Nov. 20. The six rounds of group-stage games span just eight full weeks before a midwinter break until the knockout playoffs round starts Feb. 16. Group winners advance directly to the round of 16 in March and runners-up go to the knockout playoffs with the eight teams switching across from the Champions League after finishing third in a group there. The Europa League final is on May 31 at the 65,000-capacity Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary. Third-place teams in Europa League groups in November move to the knockout playoffs in the third-tier Europa Conference League. Europa League teams share about 465 million euros ($466 million) in UEFA prize money. Each team gets a basic fee of 3.63 million euros ($3.63 million), plus 630,000 euros per win and 210,000 euros for each draw in the group stage. Payments increase for advancing through each knockout round. A team starting in the Europa group stage and eventually winning the title can earn about 40 million euros ($40 million) in UEFA prize money. That’s about one-third of expected earnings in Champions League prize money.