AP

Chelsea beat PAOK in Europa League opener

Leave a comment

It is six wins from six for Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea manager, with the Premier League side winning 1-0 at PAOK Salonika in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

Willian‘s early goal was enough to grab the win for a dominant Chelsea side, with Alvaro Morata having several chances but failing to score.

Next up for Chelsea in Group L are Videoton, who they host at Stamford Bridge in two weeks time. PAOK travel to BATE Borisov, who beat Videoton in Hungary in their opening game of the competition.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ] . 

Chelsea had the perfect start as Ross Barkley ran free and slipped in Willian brilliantly and the Brazilian finished low under PAOK’s goalkeeper Paschalakis to make it 1-0.

PAOK struggled to recover from that early deficit as Chelsea dominated the ball and Alvaro Morata should have scored a second but he headed Pedro‘s cross wide.

Morata then dragged a shot wide of the far post after a clever ball from Antonio Rudiger as Chelsea continued to push PAOK back. Marcos Alonso found Pedro before the break but the Spaniard’s effort was saved by Paschalakis and from the resulting corner Morata headed inches wide.

Right on half time Chelsea were a little lucky not to give away a penalty kick as Barkely looked to pull the shirt of a PAOK attacker in the box.

In the second half Chelsea poured forward in search of a second but Willian blasted over the bar and Alonso’s effort was deflected just wide.

Paschalakis saved Pedro’s shot late on but Chelsea held on for victory in Greece ahead of their London derby at West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday.

VIDEO: Sarr’s stunning goal in Europa League

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ismaila Sarr scored a screamer for Stade Rennais in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

The Senegalese forward will not hit a shot sweeter than this.

[ MORE: Europa League scores ]

In the first half of Rennes’ clash against Jablonec in Group K, Sarr received the ball after a one-two and drilled a fizzer into the top corner.

Take a look at the video below to see the sublime finish. What a talent the 20-year-old is.


LIVE, Europa League: Chelsea, Arsenal in European action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Both Chelsea and Arsenal begin their UEFA Europa League campaigns on Thursday, with the Premier League clubs expected to breeze through to the latter stages of the tournament.

We all know this tournament doesn’t exactly work like that, with plenty of surprises in the past. Yet Chelsea and Arsenal are the bookmakers favorites to lift the trophy in Baku in May.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Chelsea face PAOK Salonika (kick off, 12:55 p.m. ET) in Greece without Eden Hazard, as their star man has told manager Maurizio Sarri he could do with a break following his exploits for Belgium at the 2018 World Cup over the summer. The Blues still put out a pretty strong but had plenty of changes from the lineup which beat Cardiff City at the weekend to secure their fifth-straight win to open up the new season. Sarri clearly has one eye on their London derby against West Ham United this Sunday (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Elsewhere in Group L, Videoton and BATE Borisov do battle.

As for Arsenal, they host Ukrainian side Vorskla Poltava at the Emirates Stadium (kick off, 3 p.m. ET) as they take part in their second-straight season outside of the UEFA Champions League. Unai Emery will also utilize his squad players and is expected to rest several regulars ahead of their tasty Premier League clash at home against Everton on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Elsewhere in Group E, Sporting Lisbon host FK Qarabag.

Elsewhere in the Europa League on Thursday both Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers are in action, with Steven Gerrard‘s side playing at La Liga side Villarreal, while Celtic host Rosenborg. Some other tasty clashes include Marseille hosting Eintracht Frankfurt, Sevilla and Standard Liege doing battle, Real Betis heading to Olympiacos and Red Bull Leipzig hosting Red Bull Salzburg.

Below is the full schedule for the Europa League games on Thursday, while you can follow all of the action live by clicking the link above.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea debut; Red Bull Derby (of sorts)

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Leave a comment

The Europa League group stage begins Thursday, with two London giants taking part in a relatively unfamiliar competition.

[ MORE: Full Europa League schedule ]

Both Arsenal and Chelsea have played in the tournament finals in recent years, but for the most part are Champions League mainstays.

This season, however, it’s the UEL leading one to Greece and the other to a visit from a Ukrainian side.

Both are involved in our five matches to monitor amongst the 48-team field on Day 1.

5 (tie). Villarreal vs. Rangers / Celtic vs. Rosenborg

The Old Firm rivals with plenty to prove kick off their group stages on Wednesday, in turn saying something for Scottish football.

For Steven Gerrard‘s Rangers, that means the chance to make good on their first full European tournament since the 2010-11 Europa League. They took the long way, winning four qualifying rounds to earn these nights. Now what? Perhaps their toughest test yet in Villarreal.

For Brendan Rodgers‘ Celtic, it’s an opportunity to show that while the Champions League has been a bit too rich for their blood, a Europa League group stage with Austrian, German, and Norwegian competition isn’t a problem for the best team in Scotland.

4. Arsenal vs. Vorskla Poltava

Forget the opposition: Unai Emery sees the Europa League as the opportunity to put more silverware in the halls of Arsenal HQ. From Arsenal.com:

“Every title for us is very important. In 2000, Arsenal played the final against Galatasaray but didn’t win. And also, Arsenal played the final in 2006 in the Champions League and also didn’t win. In my career, the ambition is very important for continuing to improve and continuing to achieve the objectives in my career personally and with the team. I want to play for every title going forward.”

There’s no reason to expect anything but a win for the Gunners against a team in just its second European group stage.

3. Marseille vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Frank McCourt’s Olympique Marseille still doesn’t sound quite right, so let’s go with the manager. Rudi Garcia’s Olympique Marseille has a lot of weapons, including a trio of World Cup winners in Steve Mandanda, Florian Thauvin, and Adil Rami. Their Bundesliga visitors feature a Mexican national teamer (Carlos Salcedo) and an American (Timothy Chandler), but eyes will be trained on a Frenchman: Sebastian Heller has three goals and an assist in three league appearances this season.

2. PAOK vs. Chelsea

With all respect to Vieirinha and Amr Warda, this shouldn’t be a major challenge for Maurizio Sarri‘s men. Yes, even with Eden Hazard, Mateo Kovacic, and David Luiz being rested in London.

But it gets our circle because Sarri has called it the most difficult challenge of their group stage. BATE Borisov and MOL Vidi (formerly Videoton) are the other members of Group L. From ChelseaFC.com:

“I have seen the four matches played by PAOK in the Champions League play-offs. My staff have seen the matches of the Greek championship. I think I know everything.

“We want to play with our characteristics, to control the match with our ball possession, but I know tomorrow will be difficult. They are a good team. They have won against Basel, Spartak Moscow, they drew against Benfica in Portugal. We have to do a very good match if we want to gain points.”

1. RB Leipzig vs. Red Bull Salzburg

UEFA would prefer to avoid matches like this, even presumably one-sided ones, as two clubs owned by Red Bull square off in a meaningful competition. The pair being in the same group will be even trickier when there are chances to affect the next round fate of their brother club (The clubs aren’t technically deemed to have the same ownership, but it’s difficult to conclude the relationship isn’t a healthy one).

Europa League group draw: Chelsea, Arsenal heavy favorites

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two Premier League giants learned their fate for the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League group stage on Friday.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

Arsenal will have plenty of traveling to do in Group E with trips to Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag and Vorskla.

Chelsea will be the huge favorites in Group L as they face PAOK FC, BATE Borisov and Vidi FC.

Steven Gerrard‘s Glasgow Rangers will play against Villarreal, Rapid Wien and Spartak Moscow in Group G, while Celtic have been handed a tricky draw in Group B against sister clubs FC Salzburg and RB Leipzig, plus Rosenborg.

The standout groups elsewhere include Group H with Lazio, Marseille, Frankfurt and Apollon Limassol locking horns, while Group F is a beauty with Olympiacos, AC Milan, Real Betis and minnows F91 Dudelange doing battle.

Below are the groups in full, with the full game schedule in the link above.


Group A
Bayer Leverkusen
Ludogorets
FC Zurich
AEK Larnaca

Group B
FC Salzburg
Celtic
RB Leipzig
Rosenborg

Group C
Zenit
FC Copenhagen
Bordeaux
Slavia Prague

Group D 
Anderlecht
Fenerbache
Dinamo Zagreb
Spartak Trnava

Group E
Arsenal
Sporting Lisbon
Qarabag
Vorskla

Group F
Olympiacos
AC Milan
Real Betis
F91 Dudelange

Group G
Villarreal
Rapid Wien
Spartak Moscow
Glasgow Rangers

Group H
Lazio
Marseille
Frankfurt
Apollon Limassol

Group I
Besiktas
Genk
Malmo
Sarpsborg

Group J
Sevilla
Krasnodar
Standard Liege
Akhisarspor

Group K
Dynamo Kiev
FC Astana
Stade Rennais
FK Jablonec

Group L
Chelsea
PAOK FC
BATE Borisov
Vidi FC