With the group states complete, the UEFA officials went about the very serious and important duties of pulling little pieces of paper out of shiny balls to decide the fate of all. And this is how it turned out:
Off to Belarus again! In case you forgot last years’ frivolity, Arsenal faced BATE in the group stages. They were fairly one sided affairs with the Gunners polishing off a pair of wins to the tune of 2-4 and 6-0.
However, group stages are one thing. Arsenal cruised last years’ group as well only to experience a bit of resistances from Swedish minnows Ostersunds, actually losing the home leg. Games in February can follow a busy December and January (should Arsenal still be contending for the League Cup along with FA Cup fixtures) and with Arsenal beginning a sincere injury crisis, who knows what shape Arsenal will arrive for these legs. BATE, conversely, has walked to another Belarussian title and has some time off to enjoy the wonderful Eastern European Winter.
That and they still employ Alexandre Hleb, still one of the more popular short term midfielders Arsenal had, who left the club 10 years ago and is remarkably still playing. It’ll be nice to see him once more. At least.
The first leg is set for February 14th (so... plan well with your significant other should you get suckered into that faux-holiday) in Belarus while the return will be on February 20th at the Emirates. The rest of the Europa League Round of 32 draw can be found here.