UEFA Europa & Europa Conference League
UEFA Europa & Europa Conference League

Europa/Conference League Draw: Bello to Face Liverpool, Aaronson & Frankfurt Group Favorites

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New LASK arrival George Bello will have a pair of Europa League games against Liverpool to look forward to, while Paxten Aaronson and Tim Chandler will be favorites to advance from their Europa Conference League group with Frankfurt.

The groups for Europe’s second- and third-tier competitions were set on Friday evening, with the handful of Americans in the two competitions getting an estimate of how many frequent flyer miles they will earn flying to often distant European locations.

In the Europa League, George Bello had perhaps the most drastic promotion in terms of the quality of opposition in recent memory, as his summer transfer to LASK from freshly-relegated German 3. Liga team Bielefeld has guaranteed a pair of Group D games against English giants Liverpool.

Rounding out the difficult group are Belgians Union Saint-Gilloise and French Cup winners Toulouse, whose thin European resume includes only two prior group-stage appearances, the last coming 14 years ago.

Erik Palmer-Brown and Panathanaikos reached the competition’s group stage by way of their aggregate loss to Braga in the final step of Champions League qualification. For their efforts, they will face Spaniards Villarreal and French fourth-place finishers Rennes, as well as three-peat Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa in Group F.

The Greeks are returning to group play of European competition for the first time since the 2016-17 season, and have not reached the knockout stage on the continental stage in nearly 15 years.

By way of his transfer from Brøndby IF to reigning Norwegian champions Molde, Christian Cappis was given the shot to play in the Europa League, after his new team was similarly eliminated from the Champions League play-off round directly prior to his arrival.

They will have a difficult time to overcome Germans Bayer Leverkusen to claim top spot of Group H, but will be confident of their chances to finish ahead of Azerbaijani champions Qarabağ FK and reigning Swedish title-holders BK Häcken.

One step lower in the Europa Conference League, Djordje Mihailovic and AZ Alkmaar find themselves in a similar situation as Cappis through their placement in Group E, which features heavy favorites Aston Villa, as well as Polish team Legia Warsaw and Bosnian champions Zrinjski Mostar.

The remaining two Conference League groups containing Americans could see Yank vs. Yank battles.

Henry Wingo and Hungarian champions Ferencváros were drawn together with Mark McKenzie’s Genk, last season’s Belgian runners-up. While McKenzie is has been a locked-in starter for more than a year, Wingo has struggled for playing time recently. The two teams will also face Italians Fiorentina and Serbian team Čukarički in Group F.

Finally, Group G will feature two face-offs between Germans Eintracht Frankfurt and Scottish Premiership team Aberdeen. Paxten Aaronson is beginning to earn more minutes with Frankfurt and started in their second-leg win over Levski Sofia, while Tim Chandler rarely makes it off the bench.

Dante Polvara is a rotational starter for Aberdeen, so seeing both him and Aaronson on the field in one or both of their two meetings in the coming months isn’t entirely unlikely.

For both competitions, the first of their six group games will take place on Thursday, September 21, with the final being nearly three months later, on December 14.

Europa League Group-Stage Draw

Group E: Liverpool, LASK (George Bello), Union Saint-Gilloise, Tolouse
Group F: Villarreal, Rennes, Maccabi Haifa, Panathanaikos (Erik Palmer-Brown)
Group H: Bayer Leverkusen, Qarabağ, Molde (Christian Cappis), BK Häcken

Europa Conference League Group-Stage Draw

Group E: AZ Alkmaar (Djordje Mihailovic), Aston Villa, Legia Warsaw, Zrinjski Mostar
Group F: Ferencváros (Henry Wingo), Fiorentina, Genk (Mark McKenzie), Čukarički
Group G: Eintracht Frankfurt (Paxten Aaronson, Tim Chandler), PAOK, HJK, Aberdeen (Dante Polvara)

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David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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