Football Features

Arsenal’s best and worst opponents in the Europa League last-32 draw

By Ben Green

Arsenal Europa League draw

Published: 15:18, 15 December 2019

Despite limping over the finishing line, Arsenal have progressed to the knockout stages of the Europa League for the third successive season.

The Gunners topped Group F after an impressive start to their European campaign but three winless games on the bounce in the competition has left a sour taste in the mouth among some supporters.

Arsenal managed to navigate their way through a testing group, which included last year’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt, Standard Liege and Vitoria de Guimaraes, and now find themselves as a seeded team ahead of the last-32 draw.

The draw will take place on Monday in Nyon, Switzerland, but who could Arsenal face? Well, as always, rules dictate that Freddie Ljungberg and Co cannot be drawn against other sides from their own domestic league or a club they faced in the group stages, meaning Frankfurt and Wolves are off the table.

That leaves 14 possible scenarios for the north Londoners, and they are as follows: Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donestsk, Olympiacos, Club Brugge, APOEL, Copenhagen, Getafe, Sporting, CFR Cluj, Rangers, Ludogorets, Wolfsburg, Roma and AZ Alkmaar.

There is a real mixed bag on offer for the Gunners, but who will Ljungberg be hoping for when the draw commences next week, and who will he be dreading? We’ve taken a look below…

What’s the best draw Arsenal could get in the Europa League last-32?

Ludogorets

Best Europa League finish: Last-16 (2013/14)

Current domestic league position: 1st in Bulgarian First League

Head-to-head: Arsenal wins: 2 Draws: 0 Ludogorets wins: 0

There are no easy games at this stage of the competition, but Arsenal fans will not feel hard done by if they are drawn against Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets.

Stoycho Stoev’s side are flying high on domestic soil, currently sitting atop the Bulgarian First League having not yet tasted defeat, so this would certainly not prove a straightforward proposition for the north London club.

However, the Eagles have shown frailties in Europe this season, most notably keeping just the single clean sheet, while they have also conceded more goals than any other team who qualified during the group stages.

Ludogorets shipped an uninspiring 10 goals in just six games, including seven to Espanyol, a side who currently find themselves rock bottom of La Liga this campaign, having scored the least number of goals in the Spanish top-flight (10).

So, if the struggling Catalonian club can breach Ludogorets’ net seven times in just two encounters, then Arsenal would certainly fancy themselves to stroll past these opponents and take one step closer to continental silverware.

What’s the worst draw Arsenal could get in the Europa League last-32?

Roma

Best Europa League finish: Runners-up (1990/91)

Current domestic league position: 5th in Serie A

Head-to-head: Arsenal wins: 2 Draws: 1 Roma wins: 1

It wasn’t too long ago Eusebio Di Francesco’s free-flowing Roma were locking horns in the Champions League semi-finals with Liverpool, playing out a remarkable 7-6 aggregate reversal to the current European title-holders in 2017/18.

Well, last season the Giallorossi finished sixth in Serie A and now find themselves in the Europa League. And having finished second in Group J behind Istanbul Basaksehir, Arsenal could be drawn against the club from the Eternal City.

Under Paulo Fonseca, Roma currently sit fifth in the Italian top flight, with an impressive plus 11 goal difference, having only tasted defeat on just two occasions.

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His side have already taken the scalps of AC Milan, Napoli and table-toppers Istanbul, while a quick look at their current squad will tell you that this is a group brimming with elite-level quality.

The likes of Edin Dzeko, Nicolo Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Justin Kluivert make for a frightening attack, while further back reported Arsenal transfer target Chris Smalling, Gianluca Mancini and Aleksandar Kolarov have worked wonders to tighten things up in defence.

Given the potential clubs Arsenal could face, this is a scenario hardcore Gooners will be fearing immensely.

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