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Looking closer at Arsenal's Europa League opponents

Tuesday 29th August 2017
Arsenal will embark on a foray into the Europa League for the first time since 2000. A tough return to the competition awaits the English side who've been drawn against BATE Borisov, FC Cologne and Red Star Belgrade in Group H.

The Gunners face the ignominy of appearing on Thursday nights before Christmas for the first time in Arsene Wenger's two-decade reign at the club and would have hoped for a slightly easier group to kick things off.

Nonetheless, the pressure will definitely be on them having been strongly tipped to succeed Manchester United as champions. But first, they must conquer their group before dreaming of a trip to Lyon come May 2018.

To ease the workload on Wenger, we've taken out time to spy on their opponents and here's what we found out.

BATE Borisov

Country: Belarus

League finish last season: 1st

Manager: Alyaksandr Yermakovich

Stadium: Borisov Arena, 13,126

No team in Europe has had as much domestic dominance as BATE in the last century. The club has won the Belarus Premier League 13 times; of which 11 have come on the bounce. They've also won three Belarusian Cups and four Super Cups.

BATE entered the Champions League second qualifying round as champions. The side from Barysaw eased past Alashkert before losing on away goals to Slavia Praha. To enter the  Europa League group stage, they had to beat Oleksandria.

Arsenal and BATE have never faced each other in Europe. However, the Gunners will have a lot to do when both sides square off, especially with the Belarusian league very much active.

FC Cologne

Country: Germany

League finish last season: 5th

Manager: Peter Stoeger

Stadium: RheinEnergieStadion, 49,968

Cologne may not have had as much domestic success as BATE, however, the Billy Goats are certainly no pushovers. Since its creation in 1948, the club has won two Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokal and a German Football Championship.

Cologne earned direct entry to this stage after finishing fifth in the Bundesliga last season. Their best ever finish in the competition was second in 1986.

Arsenal will begin their campaign by hosting the German side on September 14. The game has been tagged the 'Lukas Podolski' derby, the reason being the 32-year-old made his name playing for both clubs.

Red Star Belgrade

Country: Serbia

League finish last season: 2nd

Manager: Vladan Milojevic

Stadium: Rajko Mitic Stadium, 55,538

According to a poll in 2008, Red Star is the most popular football club in Serbia, with 48.2% of the population supporting them. That's somewhat unsurprising owing to their dominance, with 43 leagues and Cup titles combined.

Crvena Zvezda Beograd as their known at home, finished top of the Serbian Super Liga 'Regular Season' last term but ended third in the 'Championship Round'. With that, they qualified for the Europa League first round. Victories over Floriana, Irtysh, Sparta Praha and Krasnodar ensured their passage to the group phase.

Arsenal will encounter one of the most vociferous supporters in Europe when they travel to Belgrade in October. The Gunners will have to overcome intimidating atmospheres like this to stand any chance of clinching the title.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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