The 2014-15 Europa League group-stage draw took place in Monaco on Friday following a dramatic final round of qualifiers. A total of 48 teams were split into 12 groups of four during the draw, which threw up a number of interesting fixtures along the route to the Warsaw final.
Everton and Feyenoord were among the clubs everybody wanted to avoid in Pot C, two sides who threatened to throw up a Group of Death scenario for the higher seeded teams. Both were handed difficult draws, as noted below, per UEFA:
The full fixture list can be viewed right here.
Defending champions Sevilla have proven themselves to be a resilient team in Europe over the last few years. The Spanish club have won the Europa League (or the old UEFA Cup) three times since the 2005-06 season, building quite a reputation on the continent for pulling off remarkable results.
Last year's final win against Benfica upset the odds, but Unai Emery's team held their nerve to score each of their four penalties after holding the Portuguese favourites to a 0-0 draw after extra time. A group-stage draw with Standard Liege, Feyenoord and HNK Rijeka will put this resiliency to the test once more, but last season's winners should be confident.
Sevilla have invested well over the summer. Players such as Grzegorz Krychowiak, Ever Banega and Benoit Tremoulinas have been brought in to beef up a squad that will be ready to compete.
Loan signings Iago Aspas, Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu will add attacking spark and a burst of energy to Emery's forward line. Granted, key players such as Ivan Rakitic, Alberto Moreno and Federico Fazio have all secured moved away, but the boss has done well to ensure Sevilla have the quality to go all the way.
Mauricio Pochettino is settling into life rather easily at Tottenham. The Argentinian boss has Spurs playing incisive passing football already and will be hoping his team finally deliver on their potential in the Europa League.
Besitkas are certainly admirable opponents and will take great confidence from their two-legged Champions League qualifier with Arsenal. The Turkish side really could have squeezed through after missing chances and conceding a soft Alexis Sanchez goal to lose 1-0 on aggregate, but they'll remain focused for the clashes with Spurs.
Both Partizan Belgrade and Asteras Tripolis are favourable draws, however, giving the English club an excellent chance to underline their authority early on.
Tottenham possess arguably the strongest squad of the competition. Pochettino has added to Andre Villas-Boas' £100 million invasion with players such as Eric Dier, Ben Davies and Fazio, but it's the manager's ability to improve the form of those who were previously misfiring that acts as the clearest indication of his impact.
Harry Kane netted in both qualifying legs against AEL Limassol and is becoming an influential force in Spurs' forward line.
Similarly, Erik Lamela is beginning to prove his worth after being left in the wilderness by previous boss Tim Sherwood. Lamela is working well under his countryman and has two assists in as many Premier League games this season. Paulinho also dominated against Limassol and can be expected to lead Spurs' midfield.
Pochettino's options are exhaustive. He possesses strength in depth across all positions, making Spurs a consistently deadly prospect throughout the competition. The new manager's organisation should also make a real difference after a difficult 2013-14 campaign for the north London side.
Roberto Martinez's Everton continue to impress. The Toffees regularly take top-four scalps in the Premier League and have a fearsome record at Goodison Park, which remains a fortress in England. Although a tough group draw pits them against Lille, Wolfsburg and Krasnodar, the Merseyside club have the togetherness and belief to put up a real challenge for the trophy.
Even so, Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sports believes Everton's draw ranks among the toughest:
Lille, Everton, Wolfsburg, Krasnodar. Equally with Inter's group those two are the toughest ones— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) August 29, 2014
Which team is most likely to win the 2014-15 Europa League?
The permanent signing of Romelu Lukaku, who was linked to Wolfsburg, per Kicker-Sportsmagazin (h/t Sky Sports) is likely to be key. Everton's play is directed through the Belgian who can power his way beyond defences and hold the ball up while he waits for support. A hard-working midfield shields Martinez's back four, as Gareth Barry and James McCarthy are always ready to battle against the best.
Everton can lay down a marker for the competition by performing well in the group stage. Trips to France and Germany will suit a side who should be looking to grab all nine points on offer at home. Although journeying to Russia is a huge mid-week commitment, Martinez is shrewd enough to rotate his players accordingly.
Squad depth could be an issue for the Toffees, but a fully confident Everton side are more than capable of taking apart the competition's best.