Swansea’s Spanish stars face daunting trip to Valencia
Spurs and Wigan face tough Europa League ties in Russia
Swansea winger Pablo Hernandez (left) faces a return to the Mestalla to take on his former club Valencia in the Europa League group stages. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Swansea’s Spanish stars face a daunting trip to Valencia in their first-ever Europa League group stage campaign as long-haul journeys to Russia, Moldova and northern Norway beckon for Tottenham.
After beating Petrolul Ploiesti of Romania in a two-legged play-off, Michael Laudrup’s Capital One Cup champions have earned the right to play Primera Division giants Valencia, Kuban Krasnodar of Russia and Switzerland’s St Gallen.
Winger Pablo Hernandez returns to the Mestalla while Chico Flores, Michu and Jordi Amat are just a few former La Liga stars plying their trade with the Swans.
Tottenham, quarter-finalists last season, knocked out Dinamo Tbilisi on Thursday night and will meet Anzhi Makhachkala, who have recently sold high-earners Willian, Christopher Samba and Samuel Eto’o after a massive cut in their budget, as well as venturing east to Moldova for a meeting with Sheriff Tiraspol and to the Arctic Circle outpost of Tromso in Norway.
FA Cup winners Wigan keep the Russian flavour alive by tackling Rubin Kazan, Slovenian club Maribor and Zulte Waregem of Belgium.
Meanwhile, Irish Times soccer correspondent Emmet Malone was chosen to pick the team to replace Turkish side Fenerbahce, after they were thrown out the competition when their appeal against a two-year Uefa ban to the Court of Arbitration over match fixing was dismissed.
With Ireland having no participants in the competition, Malone picked from the losers of last nights’s play-off round of games, drawing out APOEL Nicosia.
Fans of the Cypriot club were quick to thank Malone on Twitter, including an offer of homemade halloumi cheese from one supporter.
The club’s luck didn’t extend to the draw, with APOEL being paired with Bordeaux, Eintracht Frankfurt and Israel’s Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Group A: Valencia, Swansea, Kuban Krasnodar, St Gallen.
Group B: PSV, Dinamo Zagreb, Chornomorets Odesa, Ludogorets.
Group C: Standard Liege, SV Red Bull Salzburg, IF Elfsborg, Esbjerg.
Group D: Rubin Kazan, Wigan, Maribor, Zulte Waregem.
Group E: Fiorentina, Dnipro, Pacos Ferreira, Pandurii Targu Jiu.
Group F: Bordeaux, APOEL Nicosia, Eintracht Frankfurt, Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Group G: Dynamo Kiev, Genk, Rapid Vienna, FC Thun.
Group H: Sevilla, Freiburg, Estoril Praia, Liberec.
Group I: Lyon, Real Betis, Guimaraes, Rijeka.
Group J: Lazio, Trabzonspor, Legia Warsaw, Apollon Limassol.
Group K: Tottenham, Anzhi Makhachkala, FC Sheriff, Tromso
Group L: AZ, PAOK Salonika, Maccabi Haifa, Shakhtyor Karagandy