Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Toffees sent to the Wolfs in an unkind draw

Tough task: Roberto Martinez failed to get luck of the draw

Everton may be returning to European football in the continent's secondary competition, but they have been drawn in a group worthy of the Champions League, according to one of the men plotting their downfall.

The Europa League draw in Monaco was unkind to Roberto Martinez's side, who came from pot three to line up against Lille, Wolfsburg and Krasnodar.

With a side who finished third in Ligue 1 last year, one that came fifth in the Bundesliga and a gruelling journey to a distant Russian outpost, Group H is sure to be a tough ask for the Toffees between now and Christmas.

England's other representative, Tottenham face top seeds Besiktas in Group C, the same side that North London rivals Arsenal beat 1-0 over two legs in their Champions League play-off.

Celtic, meanwhile, will play Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb and Astra in Group D.

All three British sides will go in with the ultimate aim of making the final in Warsaw next year, with victory in this year's competition coming with the added incentive of a guaranteed place in the Champions League play-offs.

Everton will not be the only side in Group H cursing their luck, with Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs, whose side travel to Goodison Park on September 18, saying: "It will not be easy. It looks a bit like a Champions League group."

Lille striker Divock Origi has an added incentive to take down Martinez and company, having signed for Merseyside rivals Liverpool in the summer before being loaned back to his former club for one more season.

Besiktas, managed by Slaven Bilic and spearheaded on the field by former Chelsea forward Demba Ba, are Tottenham's biggest threat in a group rounded out by Serbia's Partizan Belgrade and Asteras Tripolis of Greece.

Tottenham beat Besiktas 2-0 at the Ataturk Stadium in the UEFA Cup group phase in 2006, when Hossam Ghaly and Dimitar Berbatov were on target, and return to Istanbul on the final matchday, December 11.

Hull, who were knocked out on away goals by Lokeren at the play-off stage, have arguably dodged a bullet.

Although keen to extend their maiden European journey, the locations and distances facing Lokeren – who meet Turkey's Trabzonspor, Legia of Poland and Russian outfit Metalist Kharkiv - would not have been welcomed by Tigers boss Steve Bruce.

Europa League holders Sevilla were drawn with Feyenoord, Standard Liege and Rijeka.

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