FOLLOW LIVE: Man United, Southampton kick off Europa League group stage

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The group stage of the 2016-17 Europa League kicks off on Thursday, with a pair of Premier League sides — Manchester United and Southampton — in action abroad and at home.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Thursday’s Europa League action ]

After finishing fifth in the PL last season, Man United are once again in European competition — only, they’ll be playing their games on Thursdays rather than Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Jose Mourinho won the Europa League (then called the UEFA Cup) with Porto back in the 2002-03 season. That same side won the Champions League a season later, also under Mourinho. Wayne Rooney has been left out of the 20-man squad for the group stage, perhaps figuring they can advance to the knockout stage while giving him a rest.

Right after the Red Devils finish up elsewhere on the continent, Saints will take on Sparta Prague, last season’s runners-up in the Czech first division. PST’s lead writer and editor, Joe Prince-Wright, will be on the scene at St. Mary’s Stadium.

Today’s notable Europa League fixtures

Feyenoord vs. Manchester United — 1 p.m. ET
Southampton vs. Sparta Prague — 3:05 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Roma — 1 p.m. ET
Inter Milan vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva — 3:05 p.m. ET
PAOK vs. Fiorentina — 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal vs. FC Zurich — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sassuolo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Schalke — 3:05 p.m. ET
Mainz vs. Saint-Etienne — 1 p.m. ET