Man United will challenge them, Arsenal’s Europa League groups, but both should prevail

Manchester United and Arsenal have been drawn against good opposition in the Europa League and while they both have the quality to advance, they cannot take their games in the group stage for granted if they advance.

– Europa League draw: Man United, Arsenal will face a tough group

Manchester United will face Real Sociedad, who finished sixth in LaLiga last season, Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova (they beat Real Madrid last season in the Champions League) and Cypriot side, Omonia Nicosia. Meanwhile, Arsenal will travel to the Netherlands to play PSV Eindhoven, who lost to Rangers in the Champions League playoff in midweek, as well as to the northernmost tip of Norway to meet FK Bodo/Glimt (who beat AS Roma 6-1 in the Europa Conference League last season) and Swiss side FC Zurich.

Despite losing striker Alexander Isak to Newcastle, Real Sociedad still have a strong squad, boasting fine talents such as forward Mohamed-Ali Cho and midfielder Takefusa Kubo, established internationals such as Mikel Merino and Mikel Oyarzabal, and they are led by 36-year-old David Silva, who is returning to Manchester after playing 10 years for City. The team plays attacking, passing football and their manager, Imanol Alguacil, who brought them to their first win in the Spanish Cup in 33 years in 2020 (played in 2021), is doing a great job.

Sheriff was one of the surprises in the Champions League last season. They shocked the football world when they beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu (2-1) in September in the Champions League, only to finish third in their group and go into the Europa League, where they lost to Braga in the last 32 round. . However, they are not as good as last year. They have a new manager in Stjepan Tomas, who didn’t really do well when he was in charge in Turkey. This is a young squad and the hardest thing for their opponents is the long trip to Transnistria in Moldova.

Finally, Omonia Nicosia, coached by Celtic legend Neil Lennon, are possibly the weakest team in the group on paper, but they have passionate traveling support and some experienced players such as Hungarian international Adam Lang, former Sunderland defender Adam Matthews and former US international Mix Diskerud.

Arsenal’s group is quite similar to United’s in terms of opponent types. PSV Eindhoven are clearly the toughest team and will be eager to impress after being almost knocked out by Rangers (3-2 on aggregate) in the final playoff round of the Champions League. In his first season on the bench, Ruud Van Nistelrooy will return to England, where he had many successful years as a player at Manchester United, and he has a team that can compete: witness their destruction of Ajax in the Dutch Super Cup. He had a great team that beat Ajax in the Dutch Super Cup in July (5-3).

Luuk De Jong, back from Barcelona, ​​is the captain and leader, but the likes of Cody Gakpo, Xavi Simons, Ibrahim Sangaré, Joey Veerman and Jordan Teze make this team strong and dangerous. The atmosphere at the Philips Stadion will also be special.

However, Arsenal’s most unusual trip was to Bodo, in the far north of Norway. The 2021 Norwegian champions were beaten by Dynamo Zagreb this week in the Champions League playoff to land here. They play in a small stadium, on a plastic pitch, and it’s enough of a logistical challenge to distract visiting teams from the task at hand. Roma and Jose Mourinho lost there twice last season.

Despite losing some of their best players in the last 18 months — such as Jens Petter Hauge’s move to AC Milan — Kjetil Knudsen is doing a great job as manager, they are still playing well football with intensity and they are hard to beat. their three home games.

Finally, FC Zurich looks like the weakest team in the group on paper. They won the Swiss league in 2022, but lost the manager who got them there, Andre Breitenreiter, to Hoffenheim, who was replaced by Franco Foda, the former Austria boss. So far this season is not going well: they are dead-last in the Swiss Super League and the only team without a win after five games. Wilfried Gnonto, 18, who made his Italy debut in June in the Nations League, is their best player, and they managed to keep him in the summer. That said, it will either be a challenge to escape this group or Arsenal will be a serious challenge.