The Malta Independent 23 September 2023, Saturday
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Former European champions Ajax and Marseille in Europa League group with Brighton and AEK Athens

Associated Press Saturday, 2 September 2023, 07:12 Last update: about 21 days ago

Former European champions Ajax and Marseille were drawn Friday to play Premier League club Brighton and AEK Athens in one of the toughest Europa League groups.

Brighton will play in a European competition for the first time in the club's 122-year history after finishing a club-best sixth in the top division last season.

Liverpool, a three-time winner of the second-tier European competition, was drawn to face Union Saint-Gilloise, Toulouse and Austrian club LASK. Liverpool midfielder Alexis Mac Allister could now play against his older brother, Kevin, who is a defender at Belgian club Union.

Europa Conference League champion West Ham will play Olympiakos, Freiburg and Serbian club TSC, while Roma, coached by Jose Mourinho, will be trying to reach its third straight European final in a group with Slavia Prague, Sheriff and Servette. Villarreal, the 2021 Europa League champion, landed in a group with Rennes, Maccabi Haifa and Panathinaikos.

When Marseille and Ajax were winning the Champions League titles in 1993 and 1995, respectively, Brighton was a struggling third-division club that soon sank further.

From 1997-99, Brighton had to leave its home city to play in a borrowed stadium about 100 kilometers (70 miles) away. The Seagulls returned to the Premier League in 2017.

“If you go back 25 years to the darker days of the club many (fans) would probably never have thought they would see this happen,” Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said in Monaco.

The other groups are: Bayer Leverkusen, Qarabag, Molde and Hacken; Atalanta, Sporting Lisbon, Sturm Graz and Rakow Czestochowa; and Rangers, Real Betis, Sparta Prague and Aris Limassol.

The group games will start on Sept. 21 and finish on Dec. 14. The knockout rounds are scheduled to begin in February with the final on May 22 in Dublin, Ireland.

While the 32 Champions League clubs share 2 billion euros ($2.17 million) in UEFA prize money, the fund for Europa League clubs is 465 million euros ($504 million).

Europa League

Group A: West Ham (England), Olympiakos (Greece), Freiburg (Germany), TSC (Serbia)

Group B: Ajax (Netherlands), Marseille (France), Brighton (England), AEK Athens (Greece)

Group C: Rangers (Scotland), Real Betis (Spain), Sparta Prague (Czech Republic), Aris Limassol (Cyprus)

Group D: Atalanta (Italy), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Sturm Graz (Austria), Rakow Czestochowa (Poland)

Group E: Liverpool (England), LASK (Austria), Union Saint-Gilloise (Belgium), Toulouse (France)

Group F: Villarreal (Spain), Rennes (France), Maccabi Haifa (Israel), Panathinaikos (Greece)

Group G: Roma (Italy), Slavia Prague (Czech Republic), Sheriff (Moldova), Servette (Switzerland)

Group H: Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Qarabag (Azerbaijan), Molde (Norway), Hacken (Sweden)


Europa Conference League

Group A: Lille (France), Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia), Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia), KI Klaksvik (Faeroe Islands)

Group B: Gent (Belgium), Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine), Breidablik (Iceland)

Group C: Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic), Astana (Kazakhstan), Ballkani (Kosovo)

Group D: Club Brugge (Belgium), Bodo/Glimt (Norway), Besiktas (Turkey), Lugano (Switzerland)

Group E: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), Aston Villa (England), Legia Warsaw (Poland), Zrinjski (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

Group F: Ferencvaros (Hungary), Fiorentina (Italy), Genk (Belgium), Cukaricki (Serbia)

Group G: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece), HJK Helsinki (Finland), Aberdeen (Scotland)

Group H: Fenerbahce (Turkey), Ludogorets (Bulgaria), Spartak Trnava (Slovakia), Nordsjaelland (Denmark)

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