The Europa League draw was this morning in Monaco, and the Gunners find themselves in a group with FC Köln, Red Star Belgrade, and FC BATE Borisov. The first matchday is right around the corner - Thursday, September 14th.
A little background on Arsenal’s group stage opponents.
FC Köln (Cologne): The Billy Goats came in 5th in the Bundesliga last season, going 0-5-3 against the top four German sides. They are led by star left back and German international Jonas Hector. The matchup will test Lukas Podolski’s loyalties. The former Arsenal man got his start with Köln and has the city crest tattooed on the inside of his right arm.
Red Star Belgrade: The Red-Whites or The Star came in 2nd in the Serbian SuperLiga. Their cross-city rivalry with FK Partizan is regarded as one of the most famous in football and is known as the Eternal Derby. Red Star supporters are called Delije, which roughly translates to “hardman” or “studs,” and are responsible for some of the more impressive flare-filled stadium photos out there.
FC BATE Borisov: The Belarusian side won the 2016 Belarusian Premier League and sit 3rd in the 2017 table (their season runs April-November). They have won their league 11 straight times, and are led by top-scorer and Belarusian international Mikhail Gordeichuk.
The three teams are ranked 82 (BATE), 125 (Köln), and 225 (Red Star) in UEFA’s club rankings, which are based on the past five years of Champions League and Europa League results. For comparison, Arsenal are ranked 11th.
The group is eminently winnable for the Gunners, but it remains to be seen which players Arsene Wenger will select for the midweek matches. He has already said he will focus on the Premier League this season and will rest players in the Europa League if he can afford to. Arsenal have some tough fixtures coming off midweek Europa games this season including away to Chelsea, Everton, and Manchester City.
Edit: A previous version of this article listed home to Liverpool as after a Europa midweek. The match is actually after the Carabao 5th round.