Atletico Madrid, who lifted the Europa League trophy last year, will face Udinese of Italy, Stade Rennais of France and either FC Sion or Celtic in the group stage of this season’s competition, following yesterday’s draw.
Although Swiss club Sion were placed in the group, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino took the unusual step of announcing before the draw started that Sion were only included provisionally because of a Celtic protest over ineligible players.
Earlier, he told reporters that an appeals procedure was going ahead and that the situation was pending, with a decision to be taken on whether Sion were kicked out or not before the competition begins on Sept.15.
Sion defeated Celtic in the playoffs, leaving Scotland without a club in European competition this season, but Celtic could yet be reprieved.
With last season’s winners Porto in the Champions League this season, defeated finalists SC Braga will be hoping for a repeat in reaching the final and will play Club Bruges, Birmingham City, back in Europe for the first time in 50 years, and Maribor.
Two Romanian clubs will be hoping to reach this season’s final in their capital city of Bucharest, with former European champions Steaua Bucharest drawn against former UEFA Cup winners Schalke 04, Maccabi Haifa and AEK Larnaca.
Rapid Bucharest will play former European champions PSV Eindhoven, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Legia Warsaw.
Vaslui, the third Romanian club in the competition, will face 2005 runners-up Sporting of Portugal, SS Lazio and Zurich.
While there were no Scottish clubs in the draw, there was a first for Ireland with Shamrock Rovers, who defeated 1966 European Cup finalists Partizan Belgrade in a playoff on Thursday, the first Irish side to make it to the group stage.
They were drawn with Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Cup winners in 1972 and 1984, Rubin Kazan of Russia and PAOK Salonica of Greece, with the Spurs tie the highlight for the Dublin-based club, where Tottenham along with many other English clubs have a large fan-base.
As well as Spurs and Birmingham, Fulham, the 2009-2010 runners-up to Atletico, are back and will face Twente, a trip home for their Dutch coach Martin Jol, Odense and Wislaw Krakow.
Stoke City, in the Europa League for the first time, play Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas and Maccabi Tel Aviv.