A day after the long-awaited Champions League draw in Monaco, the draws for both the Europa League and the Conference League have been made with Bayer Leverkusen, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt finding out their opponents for the group stages. Here’s what the Bundesliga trio have in store…
After failing to progress from last season’s Champions League group stage, Leverkusen found life more to their taste in the Europa League enjoying a run all the way to the semi-final stage, where they were sadly knocked out by Jose Mourinho’s Roma. Another tilt at European glory this season in the same competition has seen them drawn in group H alongside Azerbaijan side Qarabag, Norwegians Molde FK und Sweden’s BK Häcken.
Leverkusen have never met any of the three sides previously so the three match-ups will all be new experiences, but it is a group the Bundesliga side would expect to win with ease.
“I’m looking forward to the interesting opponents in our group, for whom we will have the necessary respect” said CEO Fernando Carro after the draw had been made. “Our goal can only be to win the group. The euphoria surrounding our semi-final appearance last year made us want more – we want to attack again.”
Sporting director Simon Rolfes added: “First of all, I’m very happy to see Andrey Lunev again against Qarabag, who has just moved there. Then we have two Scandinavian teams, Molde and Häcken, who perhaps don’t have the best-known names. But we could already see from Union Saint-Gilloise last season how much quality these teams can also have. It’s a good group, without question. Our aim is to advance, no matter what the opponents are called.”
The Breisgauer are becoming European regulars nowadays and have an interesting set of opponents this season. They have been drawn in group A alongside last season’s Conference League winners West Ham, Greek side Olympiacos and Serbian minnows FK TSC Backa Topola. Freiburg were matched with the Athens side last season too.
“I am pleased that we are finally going to have an opportunity to play in London and prove ourselves against a Premier League side” Nicolas Höfler said following the news of the draw.. “We already know Olympiacos from last season, so we were hoping for a different opponent. Nevertheless, we had some good experiences against them.
“I believe that we should be able to progress given our quality and that is also certainly our aim.”
The Adler’s reward for progressing past Levski Sofia on Thursday was a being drawn in a comfortable group along with Greek side PAOK, Finnish club HJK Helsinki and Aberdeen from Scotland.
The 2022 Europa League winners will already be targeting a place in the final to held this year in Athens next May. Aberdeen have their own European history having famously beaten real Madrid in the 1983 Cup Winners’ Cup final.