After finishing fifth in the Premier League last season, Chelsea are taking part in this term’s Europa League. The draw was held on Friday and it’s safe to say the Blues were given a favourable group – PAOK, BATE Borisov and Vidi hardly represent the most illustrious or intimidating of opposition.
But even the best-laid plans never quite turn out as expected, so who could prove to be a potential banana-skin in Europe for the west Londoners? Football FanCast’s expert writers share their thoughts on one simple question – who will be Chelsea’s toughest opponents in Group L?
“If Chelsea have to look out for one team in their group it looks as though it will be PAOK, who saw off some great competition before suffering a bit of a collapse in the second leg of their qualifying tie against Benfica on Wednesday night. Prior to that, they had beaten Champions League regulars Basel 5-1 on aggregate and also saw off Spartak Moscow, and there is certainly no shame in a loss to Benfica over two legs. The Greek club are one that Maurizio Sarri needs to be wary of.”
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“Greek outfit PAOK have recently drawn with Benfica and beaten Spartak Moscow on their ultimately ill-fated Champions League qualification campaign. They will be determined to give Chelsea a couple of tough games in the Europa League too, and the Blues certainly have to take this challenge seriously. Ex-Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom is a dangerous player who could cause Sarri’s defence problems. However, it’d be a major shock if Chelsea failed to top this group at anything other than a relative canter.”
“Having watched the first half of PAOK’s clash with Benfica, they might just give the Blues a scare when they face off in the Toumba Stadium. Benfica eventually proved to have too much quality for them, but they pressed like animals for the first 30 minutes and barring a mistake from the goalkeeper could have stayed in the game a lot longer. Chelsea should be happy with a draw in the away leg, especially if they are rotating first team players.”
“BATE have featured in the Champions League recently and they only missed out on Europe’s top competition this season through a defeat to a solid PSV team, including World Cup starlet Hirving Lozano. They’ll no doubt struggle at Stamford Bridge but trips to eastern Europe are never easy, especially on a Thursday night.”