As you are probably aware, the Europa League draw was completed two weeks ago and Liverpool have found themselves nestled in Group B alongside Bordeaux, Rubin Kazan and FC Sion.
The matches will see the Anfield faithful travel 860 miles to Switzerland, 870 miles to France and a whopping 2,500 miles to Russia. A long-haul trip is never a desired aspect of the Europa League draw however, with all things considered, it’s not too bad a group for the Reds.
Our first opponents, Bordeaux, who we will face on Thursday, September 17 are of course stalwarts of the French Ligue 1. Les Girondins have won six Ligue 1 titles and presently find themselves 10th in the table having won just one of their four opening games. In the past, the side would have been considered much more of a threat than I feel they are now and Brendan Rodgers surely must have preferred this option to some of the other big boys in the pot.
Our next opponents, Rubin Kazan, hail from Russia. I’d be lying if I said I knew a lot about this side but, as always with teams from the far reaches of Europe, the away tie is going to be extremely tough. Rubin reached the top flight of Russian football in 2003 and have gone from strength to strength ever since, most notably by notching up two Russian Premier League wins in 2008 and 2009. Their top goalscorer last season was the 26-year-old forward; Igor Portnyagin.
Our final opponents are FC Sion. When keeping up to speed with the draw at work and seeing FC Sion come through on the live feed, I can’t pretend that I knew who they were, I didn’t even know which country they came from! I quickly found out however from a colleague that they had faced Aberdeen in relatively recent history and come from Switzerland.
It’s reasons such as this why I actually quite like the Europa League. You get to learn all sorts about teams from all different cultures and more importantly for Liverpool this year, if you are lucky enough to make it to the final, a win could seal you a place in the Champions League.
Back to FC Sion, a team I should have perhaps heard of considering they have won the Swiss league twice. They finished seventh in the league last season though, eight points of third place but a whopping 33 points off the top spot! It is also worth noting that FC Sion won the Swiss Cup this year, beating Basel 3-0.
Liverpool’s ventures around Europe in this competition should, on paper, end in a positive result but as the Reds recently suffered their first huge blip in the Premier League and have to contend with fixture pile-ups, will Rodgers take the competition seriously? Do you think we should take it seriously?
Our first match against Bordeaux should give us an idea of how Brendan is going to play it, it’s also good to see that ticket prices for that clash are starting from just £13. The French team are also making extra away seats available for fans without season tickets and fan cards. I think that’s a fantastic gesture, another reason to like the Europa League.
Whatever happens in that first fixture, I personally think it’s important that we do give this competition some respect. I’d love to feel confident that the Reds will finish in the top four this season but I just can’t see that happening I’m afraid, so we should hold on to any route possible in my opinion.