The UEFA Europa League is back!
Given that the World Cup takes place this winter, the group phase will be wrapped up far earlier than usual, with the last round of games scheduled for 3 November.
All roads lead to the recently-opened Puskás Aréna, the venue for the final on 31 May.
The 67,000 capacity stadium hosted the 2020 UEFA Super Cup as well as four matches at Euro 2022.
Here’s a preview of all 16 matchday one encounters, featuring some intriguing match-ups.
Group A: FC Zürich vs Arsenal
FC Zürich vs Arsenal
Arsenal to win 3-0 against FC Zürich- 15/2!
Group A: PSV Eindhoven vs Bodø/Glimt
PSV Eindhoven vs Bodø/Glimt
PSV Eindhoven to win 2-1 against Bodø/Glimt- 15/2!
After surprising the world last season, how far will Bodø/Glimt go this time round?
During the last campaign, the Yellow Horde played no fewer than 20 matches in UEFA competition, reaching a first-ever group stage, before eventually bowing out in the Europa Conference League quarter-finals.
This season, Kjetil Knutsen’s side beat KÍ, Linfield and Žalgiris Vilnius in qualifiers, before heartbreakingly losing to GNK Dinamo in the Champions League play-offs.
Nevertheless, the Norwegian champions are looking forward to competing in this competition for the first time ever.
Bodø/Glimt have, remarkably, won 13 consecutive European home games but, on the road, their only win in 12 came at Celtic Park in February.
So, PSV Eindhoven will be looking to make home advantage count.
They too were eliminated in the final round of Champions League qualification, ousted by Rangers last month.
Nevertheless, new Head Coach Ruud van Nistelrooy will lead PSV into a 26th UEFA group stage; they haven’t missed out since 2017.
This time last year, the Red and Whites finished third in their section, before reaching the Europa Conference League last eight.
This time, they’ll be targeting a top two finish, aiming to start with three points at Philips Stadion
Group B: AEK Larnaca vs Stade Rennais
AEK Larnaca vs Stade Rennais
AEK Larnaca to draw 1-1 with Stade Rennais- 6/1!
Will Stade Rennais enjoy some more memorable European nights this season?
Les Rouge et Noir have now qualified for a group stage in each of the last five season, reaching the round of 16 of the Europa League in 2019 and the Europa Conference League last season.
Rennes European home form has been excellent of late, but Bruno Génésio’s side will be looking to start this campaign with a win on the road.
AEK Larnaca meanwhile beat both Partizan Belgrade and Dnipro-1 to get into a third Europa League group phase.
The Green-yellows are unbeaten in six home matches in UEFA competition, a record José Luis Oltra’s team will do well to maintain in a tough section.
Who will prevail at AEK Arena – Georgios Karapatakis?
Group B: Fenerbahçe vs Dynamo Kyiv
Fenerbahçe vs Dynamo Kyiv
Fenerbahçe to win 2-0 against Dynamo Kyiv- 7/1!
Just 43 days after going head-to-head at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, Fenerbahçe and Dynamo Kyiv meet again.
As recently as late July, Dynamo Kyiv won 2-1 in İstanbul; Oleksandr Karavayev’s extra time winner securing victory.
Will it be repeat or revenge in the Turkish capital?
After that, Dynamo Kyiv then ousted Sturm Graz from Champions League qualifying, before being hammered by Benfica in the play-off round.
Nevertheless, given the ongoing invasion of their homeland, it’s remarkable that Dynamo Kyiv have extended their streak of qualifying for a UEFA group stage in 16 successive seasons.
However, having their squad decimated this summer, Mircea Lucescu’s team are really up against it.
After defeat in that aforementioned tie, Fenerbahçe had to overcome Slovácko and Austria Wien just to get into the Europa League.
Now managed by Jorge Jesus though, the Yellow Canaries will be looking for better in this competition, having finished third in their group last season.
Group C: HJK vs Real Betis
HJK Helsinki vs Real Betis
Real Betis to win 3-0 against HJK- 15/2!
How far will Real Betis go in Europe this season?
Los Verdiblancos were beaten in the round of 16 of this competition by Eintracht Frankfurt in March, so are still waiting for their first continental quarter-final since 1998.
Nevertheless, given that Manuel Pellegrini’s side have made an excellent start in La Liga, Béticos could be dark horses to reach the final in Budapest.
HJK meantime are just delighted to be here, qualifying for a UEFA group stage in back-to-back seasons for the very first time.
The Finnish champions were beaten by Viktoria Plzeň in the Champions League, but victories over RFS, Maribor and Silkeborg saw them qualify for this competition after eight years away.
Having ended up third in their Europa Conference League group 12 months ago, their only wins coming against Alashkert, HJK could struggle to make the step-up.
Betis should be far too strong at Töölön jalkapallostadion.
Group C: Ludogorets Razgrad vs Roma
Ludogorets Razgrad vs Roma
Roma to win 2-0 against Ludogorets- 13/2!
Group D: Union Berlin vs Royale Union Saint-Gilloise
Union Berlin vs Royale Union Saint-Gilloise
Union Berlin to win 3-1 against Royale Union Saint-Gilloise- 11/1!
This match is a union of two of the biggest and best underdog stories in European football.
Last season, as a newly promoted club, Royale Union Saint-Gilloise looked set to be crowned Belgian champions, only to miss out in the unnecessarily complicated play-offs.
Nevertheless, as runners-up, they’ve qualified for European competition for the first time since 1965.
Last month, despite winning the first leg 2-0, Karel Geraerts’ team were beaten in Champions League qualifying by Rangers.
Nevertheless, Union SG couldn’t possibly have dreamed of being in the Europa League 12 months ago, so will they make a splash in Group D?
Another club continue to punch above their weight are Union Berlin.
Die Eisernen were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time ever as recently as 2019, but have since finished 11th, seventh and fifth.
Last season, they made their debut in a UEFA group stage, finishing third in their Europa Conference League section.
This time though, Urs Fischer’s side get a crack at this tournament and, having held Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw on Saturday, they’re full of confidence.
Also, this time, Union are able to play home matches at Stadion An der Alten Försterei, following renovations.
So, will it be a night of celebration in the German capital?
Group D: Malmö vs Braga
Malmö FF vs Braga
Malmö to draw 1-1 with Braga- 11/2!
Very few teams have as much UEFA Europa League experience as Braga.
The Archbishops reached the final of this competition in 2011 and will now feature in the group stage for the seventh time in eight seasons.
Last time round, Braga actually reached the quarter-finals, before bowing out at the hands of Rangers.
Under new boss Artur Jorge, how far will the Portuguese club go this year?
Malmö meanwhile were a Champions League club 12 months ago, but saw those dreams ended by Žalgiris Vilnius back in July.
Nevertheless, the Allsvenskan champions overcame Knattspyrnufélagið Víkingur, Dudelange and Sivasspor to get into this competition.
The last two times the Sky Blues have competed in this competition, they’ve reached the knockout stages, a streak they’ll certainly be hoping to continue.
This one could go either-way in Sweden.
Group E: Manchester United vs Real Sociedad
Manchester United vs Real Sociedad
Manchester United to win 2-0 against Real Sociedad- 7/1!
Group E: Omonia vs FC Sheriff Tiraspol
Omonia vs FC Sheriff Tiraspol
Omonia to win 1-0 against Sheriff- 5/1!
FC Sheriff Tiraspol captured the attention of the world last season, so what will they achieve this time round?
12 months ago, the Divizia Națională champions qualified for the Champions League for the very first time, beating Real Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabéu.
Since, manager Yuriy Vernydub was joined the Ukrainian army, while key players Gustavo Dulanto, Cris Silva, Frank Castañeda, Bruno, Sebastien Thill and Adama Traoré have all departed.
This season, they were beaten in Champions League qualifying by Viktoria Plzeň, only narrowly overcoming HŠK Zrinjski Mostar and Maribor 1-0 and then Pyunik on penalties.
So, Omonia will fancy their chances of a home victory.
The Cypriot cup winners demolished Gent 4-0 in the play-offs, winning both legs 2-0.
So, this is the third successive season that Omonia have been in a UEFA group stage, winning just one of 12 matches at this stage though.
Manchester United and Real Sociedad are big favourites to qualify, so this clash at GSP Stadium is key in the battle for third.
Group F: Lazio vs Feyenoord
Lazio vs Feyenoord
Lazio to win 2-1 against Feyenoord- 15/2!
How far will last season’s UEFA Europa Conference League runners-up go in this season’s competition?
Wins over Partizan, Slavia Praha and Marseille took the dutch giants to their first continental final for two decades, losing 1-0 to Roma in Tirana.
With that experience behind them, Arne Slot’s side will be looking to make a splash in this tournament.
Lazio meantime are competing in their 11th UEFA group stage, eight of which have come in the last decade.
Despite this, I Biancocelesti haven’t gone beyond the quarter-finals since 2003, falling to Porto in last season’s first knockout round.
These two are big favourites to get through, so who will claim a vital victory at Stadio Olimpico?
Group F: Sturm Graz vs FC Midtjylland
Sturm Graz vs FC Midtjylland
Sturm Graz to draw 1-1 FC Midtjylland- 11/2!
Which one of Group F’s outsiders will start with a victory in Austria?
Sturm Graz ended their ten-year UEFA group stage exile last season, finishing rock bottom of their section.
Having come second in last season’s Austrian Bundesliga, die Schwoazn get another shot at this competition.
Midtjylland meanwhile beat AEK Larnaca in Champions League qualifying on penalties, before being hammered by Benfica 7-2 in the next round.
So, the Wolves have now qualified for a UEFA group stage in three successive seasons, but haven’t reached the knockout stages of this competition since 2015/16.
Who will make a winning start at Liebenauer Stadium?
Group G: Freiburg vs Qarabağ
Freiburg vs Qarabağ
Freiburg to win 2-0 against Qarabağ- 6/1!
Freiburg are back in a UEFA group stage after eight years away, so can they reach the knockout stages for the very first time?
Christian Streich’s side finished sixth in the Bundesliga, so have unexpectedly qualified for these group stages.
Also, Freiburg have started this season on fire; they’re sat top of the Bundesliga, beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 on Saturday.
So, will the first-ever European match at Europa-Park Stadion produce a home win?
Qarabağ meanwhile boast vastly more continental experience; this is the ninth successive season they’ve qualified for a group stage.
Gurban Gurbanov’s team, impressively, beat Lech Poznań, Zürich and Ferencváros in Champions League qualifying, before falling to Viktoria Plzeň in the play-offs.
The Horseman have lost both previous visits to Germany, winning just nine of their last 32 matches played outside Azerbaijan.
So, a Freiburg victory seems likely.
Group G: Nantes vs Olympiacos
Nantes vs Olympiacos
Nantes to draw 1-1 with Olympiacos- 5/1!
Nantes are back in UEFA competition for the first time since 2001, so will it be a night to remember in Pays de la Loire?
Back in May, Antoine Kombouaré's team beat Nice 1-0 in the Coupe de France Final; Ludovic Blas’ penalty the difference at Stade de France.
This is their first major silverware since last being Ligue 1 champions 21 years ago.
Back on the continent for the first time since then, will la Maison Jaune enjoy a deep run?
In stark contrast, Olympiacos are competing in a 25th UEFA group stage, all coming in the last 26 seasons.
However, the serial Greek champions aren’t in the best shape, having first been hammered 4-0 by Maccabi Haifa in Champions League qualifying.
Then, in this competition, Carlos Corberán’s team need a penalty shootout to overcome both ŠK Slovan Bratislava and then Apollon Limassol.
They’ll be hoping the arrival of five-times Champions League winner Marcelo, and others, can improve their fortunes.
This is a very competitive group, so can Nantes make home advantage count at Stade de la Beaujoire?
Group H: Crvena zvezda vs Monaco
Crvena zvezda vs Monaco
Red Star Belgrade to win 2-1 Monaco- 11/1!
Can Crvena zvezda build on last season’s successful European adventure?
Last time round, Red Star Belgrade enjoyed their best run on the continent since lifting the European Cup in 1991.
The Serbian champions got all the way to the Europa League round of 16, before bowing out to Rangers.
Already this season, they’ve hammered Pyunik in Champions League qualifying, before being edged out by Maccabi Haifa in the play-offs.
Milan Pavkov’s stoppage time own goal gifting the Israeli champions victory, with Head Coach Dejan Stanković resigning the following morning.
Now led by Miloš Milojević, Red Star will compete in a group stage for a sixth successive season, targeting a place in the knockouts.
Monaco meantime haven’t won a tie in the knockout phase since being Champions League semi-finalists in 2017.
This year, like their hosts, los Monégasques were also beaten in Champions League qualifying, ousted by PSV Eindhoven after extra time.
In this competition, Monaco topped their group 12 months ago, something Philippe Clement’s team will be desperate to replicate.
Here though, given that Crvena zvezda have only lost five of their last 39 European games at Stadion Rajko Mitić, a home win seems likely,
Group H: Ferencváros vs Trabzonspor
Ferencváros vs Trabzonspor
Ferencváros to draw 1-1 with Trabzonspor- 11/2!
Will the champions of Hungary or Turkey claim three points in Budapest?
Given their domestic success, both began in Champions League qualifying, but both were unsuccessful.
Ferencváros enjoyed wins over Tobol, ŠK Slovan Bratislava and Shamrock Rovers, but saw their Champions League dream ended by Qarabağ.
Nevertheless, the Green Eagles have now qualified for a group stage in four successive seasons, despite enduring a 15-year exile beforehand.
If Stanislav Cherchesov’s team are to make any progress in this group, their home matches will be key.
Trabzonspor meanwhile fell to FC København in the play-off round, losing 2-1 in Denmark before a goalless draw at Akyazı Stadyumu.
Nevertheless, positivity remains high for Abdullah Avcı's team after they won the club’s first Süper Lig title since 1984 last season.
However, Trabzonspor are winless in 13 European matches, with their last victory (excluding qualifiers) coming eight years ago.
Will that wait come to an end at Groupama Aréna?