Soccer

Title-holder Sevilla draws former champs in Europa League

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The Canadian Press
8/29/2014 9:48:23 AM
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MONACO, Monaco - Title-holder Sevilla will play another former champion in Feyenoord in the group stage of the Europa League, which now rewards the trophy winner with a Champions League place.

The two teams were drawn along with Standard Liege and HNK Rijeka in the 48-team group draw Friday for UEFA's second-tier competition.

Inter Milan, also a three-time winner, returns after a one-year absence from UEFA competitions in a group with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Saint-Etienne and Qarabag.

"The Europa League is a very important competition. It's more prestigious" because of the rule change, said Inter official Javier Zanetti, who captained the club to win the 2010 Champions League.

Tottenham, a two-time champion, has Besiktas, Partizan and Asteras in its group.

Napoli is favoured to advance from a group including Sparta Prague, Young Boys and Slovan Bratislava.

Legia Warsaw and Celtic avoided a repeat of their controversial Champions League matches. Legia was eliminated this month after forfeiting a second-leg victory for fielding a suspended player.

Celtic was drawn with Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb and Astra after then losing in the Champions League qualifying playoffs.

Legia was grouped with Metalist Kharkiv, Trabzonspor and Lokeren.

The Polish champion faces disciplinary action next week after fans displayed a banner accusing UEFA of corruption at its win Thursday against Aktobe of Kazakhstan.

Matches in the 12 four-team groups begin Sept. 18.

The top two in each group advance to the knockout rounds, and join the eight third-place teams from Champions League groups.

Warsaw will host the final at its National Stadium on May 27.

The lure of a place in next season's Champions League is UEFA's new incentive to boost the second-tier event.

The Europa League is often criticized by clubs and fans for demanding too much travel for too little reward, with a complicated format and matches played in unpopular Thursday slots.

Sevilla earned 14.6 million euros ($19.2 million) in prize money for winning the title last season, when Champions League winner Real Madrid earned 57.4 million euros ($75.7 million).

UEFA will distribute more than 200 million euros ($264 million) to 56 clubs involved in the Europa League from the groups onward. More than 900 million euros ($1.18 billion) is paid to 32 Champions League clubs.

Europa League (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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