USMNT and Arsenal keeper contender Matt Turner found out the opponents for his best chance at playing time before heading to Qatar, with two games against PSV and Richard Ledezma being one of the overall highlights of the Europa League group stage.
The Europa League group stage will include several Americans likely to gain significant playing time over the six games, however it will perhaps be most important for Arsenal’s Matt Turner to keep off the rust in the lead-up to the World Cup.
The American is expected to serve as the Gunners’ backup keeper in Premier League play, however it is likely that he will start in their European campaign as well as any cup games – although only one Carabao Cup matchup will take place before he inevitably boards the plane to Qatar.
Drawn into Group A, Arsenal and Turner will be clear favorites to finish first amongst their opponents PSV Eindhoven, Bodø/Glimt and Zürich.
Richard Ledezma is on the books for PSV and had been seeing a general uptick in his playing time, until an injury several weeks ago derailed his progress in the new season. It is still unclear whether he will be ready for their opening group game on September 8.
In Group D, Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok will make a happy return to European competition with his new German team. In three prior European campaigns with Swiss team Young Boys, he scored nine goals across 29 games the Champions and Europa Leagues, and will be likely to add a few more to his total in the six games against Braga, Malmö FF and Union Saint-Gilloise.
Romain Gall is technically on the books for Malmö, but has not appeared for the Swedish team since the early stages of their spring-to-fall Allsvenskan season, and will likely play no role in their European campaign.
Mikkel Diskerud, who seems to have nailed down a starting spot in Omonia’s midfield as of late, will have the chance to show his quality against the once-mighty Manchester United in Group E.
Alongside United and the Cypriot team are Sheriff Tiraspol, who pulled off major upsets against Shakthar Donetsk and Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League, and Spaniards Real Sociedad, who count Mexican-American dual national Jonathan Gomez amongst their likely roster inclusions.
Konrad de la Fuente helped Olympiacos advance through the final play-off round by burying one of the penalties in the final shoot-out, and will likely earn playing time in Group G against Qarabağ, SC Freiburg and Nantes.
Finally, defender Henry Wingo helped Ferencváros easily win their play-off against Irish opposition after falling out of Champions League qualification, and will go up against Red Star Belgrade, Monaco and Trabzonspor in Group H.
The first game in the group stage will take place on Thursday, September 8, with the six games being completed on November 3.
Europa League Group-Stage Draw
Group A: Arsenal (Matt Turner), PSV (Richard Ledezma), Bodø/Glimt, Zürich
Group D: Braga, Malmö FF (Romain Gall), Union Berlin (Jordan Pefok), Union Saint-Gilloise
Group E: Manchester United, Real Sociedad (Jonathan Gomez), Sheriff Tiraspol, Omonia (Mix Diskerud)
Group G: Olympiacos (Konrad de la Fuente), Qarabağ, SC Freiburg, Nantes
Group H: Red Star Belgrade, Monaco, Ferencváros (Henry Wingo), Trabzonspor