It feels like it was only yesterday that we saw Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea lift the Europa League trophy high into the sky in Azerbaijan at the expense of fellow Premier League side Arsenal.
Of course, Sarri is now gone but the Europa League remains, with the Champions League’s little brother once again playing host to a group of ambitious clubs from around the continent, all aiming to mirror Chelsea’s success in the 2018/19 campaign.
Who is in this year’s competition?
Following Chelsea’s triumph, they will be making the step up into the Champions League, a tournament they won back in 2012. In their place are a host of well-known names who will be aiming to do the same. The final will be played at the Stadion Energa Gdańsk in Gdańsk, Poland.
As per every season, there are some clubs who have already booked their place and others yet to confirm their involvement, with a series of qualifying rounds standing in their way.
A grand total of 48 clubs will participate from the group stages, with plenty more attempting to reach that stage prior to the main sequence of fixtures.
Guaranteed representatives from England are Arsenal and Manchester United, who qualified via their fifth and sixth Premier League positions last season.
Other major names include AS Roma – who have replaced AC Milan as a guaranteed participant following the San Siro club’s one-year ban from Uefa competitions – and three-time winners Sevilla.
Confirmed group stage qualifiers
Getafe, Wolfsburg, Beşiktaş, Sevilla, Rennes, Wolfsberger AC, Arsenal, Saint-Étienne, Lugano, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Lazio, Sporting CP, Roma, Oleksandriya, Borussia Mönchengladbach, KV Mechelen.
Interesting names to watch
After a sensational first season back in England’s top-flight, Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers have the chance of creating history in this season’s Europa League.
They will be introduced to the competition in the second qualifying round, just two rounds away from the group stages.
Elsewhere, Steven Gerrard will be hoping he can motivate his Rangers side to do better this seaso, following their group exit last year, although they will have to start their journey in early July from the first qualifying round. Aberdeen and Kilmarnock are also seeded for the first qualifying round.
Other notable names include a talented PSV Eindhoven side, last season’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt and two-time winners Feyenoord.
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The major stories you might have missed
AC Milan banned from participation
The Italian giants have seen their place in this season’s Europa League taken by fellow Serie A side AS Roma after they were found guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play rules.
Their punishment for such irregularities has seen them hit with a one-year ban from all Uefa competitions, meaning they will have just domestic duties to occupy their time this campaign.
AC Milan finished fifth last season – just behind arch-rivals Inter Milan – but will hope to use their reduced schedule to elevate themselves into the Champions League spots by the end of the 2019/20 season.
Cardiff Met Uni living the dream
Imagine going from playing regular football matches with some of your university friends to potentially setting up a tie against some of Europe’s finest.
That is exactly what Cardiff Metropolitan University FC have done after defeating fellow Welsh side Bala Town on penalties to secure their status as the first male British university side to reach the Europa League preliminary rounds.
Cardiff Met University are going to the Europa League!
Their men's team qualify for the preliminary round after beating Bala in the Welsh Premier League play-off.
They'll learn their opponents on June 11.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 20, 2019
Cardiff Met have been drawn against Progrès Niederkorn, who hail from Luxembourg and once defeated Rangers in 2017. They have already played out the first leg, losing 1-0 away, meaning they only need to overturn a one-goal deficit in Wales to make more history.
The university side has a small chance of reaching the first qualifying round, where the likes of Malmo, Legia Warsaw, FCSB, Molde FK and Rangers could potentially await.
Living the dream!
Europa League dates for your diary
Preliminary round: 11th June 2019
First qualifying round draw (main path): 18th June 2019
Second qualifying round draw (champions and main paths): 19th June 2019
Third qualifying round draw: 22nd July 2019
Play-off: 5th August 2019
Group stage: 30th August 2019
First leg: 27th June 2019
Second leg: 4th July 2019
1st qualifying round
First leg: 11th July 2019
Second leg: 18th July 2019
2nd qualifying round
First leg: 25th July 2019
Second leg: 1st August 2019
3rd qualifying round
First leg: 8th August 2019
Second leg: 15th August 2019
First leg: 22nd August 2019
Second leg: 29th August 2019
Start: 19th September 2019