Today we found out who Inter would be facing in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. The Nerazzurri were in Pot 1 so a relatively kind draw was pretty much guaranteed and it basically turned out that way. Frank De Boer and his players will be facing Czech side Sparta Praha, Premier League club Southampton, and Israel’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva. This is a group that Inter should be confident about winning. With no disrespect to Sparta and Hapeol the Italian club should easily dispose of them, and though Southampton will present a bit more of a challenge the club shouldn’t be fearful of a trip to St. Mary’s Stadium.
In case you were curious about the other Italian teams, AS Roma was also placed in a group with a Czech club in Viktoria Plzen, Austria Vienna (it’s a little redundant to say where they’re from), and Romanian side Astra Giurgiu. Fiorentina will play against PAOK from Greece, FC Slovan Liberec from the Czech Republic, and Qarabağ FK way out in Azerbaijan. Sassuolo’s debut in the Europa League saw them receive a bit more of a difficult path to the knockout stages; Eusebio Di Francesco will have to take on La Liga side Athletic Bilbao, Genk from Belgium, and another Austrian side in Rapid Vienna.
Per usual with the Europa League, all matches will take place on Thursdays. The matchdays are: September 15, September 29, October 20, November 3, November 24, and December 8. The Round of 32 draw will be on Monday, Dec. 12.
Also, the UEFA Executive Committee just passed a reform of the qualifying procedures for the Champions League starting in 2018 which will greatly benefit Italy. First, the top four national associations in Europe (La Liga, Premier League, Bundesliga, and Serie A) will be able to automatically qualify 4 teams into the CL group stage. Furthermore, historical success will be taken into account in UEFA coefficient calculations, which will help Italy due to the nation’s strong history in the European competitions. Other important notes include the fact that the winner of the Europa League will go straight to the CL group stage and that financial distribution among participating clubs will be reformatted and increased (though the details are a little murky on that part).