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Renewed optimism for Arsenal vs. Watford


British sides face stern tests in Europa League

Everton, Fulham and Celtic were all handed tricky assignments as the draw for the group stage of the brand new Europa League took place in Monaco on Friday.

Click here for details of the full Europa League draw

The great and the good of European football assembled in the Principality for a lengthy ceremony that ensured that Everton will face tricky trips to AEK Athens in Greece and BATE Borisov in Belarus, as well as facing Portuguese giants Benfica home and away in Group I.

The Lisbon-based club last visited Merseyside in March 2006 when a 2-0 victory at Anfield ended Liverpool's hopes of progressing to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Meanwhile, Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has been handed a return to two countries he knows well with the former Switzerland and Inter Milan boss taking on FC Basel and Roma. The Cottagers will also face CSKA Sofia in Group E.

Hodgson said: "We are seeing this as an adventure. We are aware that for a team like Fulham to even reach this stage is a fantastic achievement.

"We will do our best and put on a good performance but I will not have sleepless nights if we lose to Roma. I will have sleepless nights if we are bottom of the Premier League and that is why it has to be the priority.''

Hodgson has also played down the possible threat to travelling supporters, with Rome having become a notorious destination for English fans following a number of incidents.

He added: "I can't imagine that at this stage of the competition a team like Fulham or a team like Basle or Sofia is going to engender the type of hatred that will get their fans sharpening their knives, because that's what they do over there.

"There is no doubt that they do have a very dangerous bunch of fans. A Roma-Lazio derby is not a place for the faint hearted.''

After suffering such disappointment in their Champions League defeat at the hands of Arsenal, Celtic must take on Hamburg, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Rapid Vienna in Group C in what looks like a difficult draw for Tony Mowbray's side.

The Celtic manager admitted he was wary of drawing the Bundesliga club.

"It could have been easier but you take what you get,'' he said. "I watched Hamburg play Man City last year but although there have been changes they are a tough team from the German league.

"I don't know much about the Israel team but I'm sure we will find out in the next few weeks and we watched Rapid Vienna put out Aston Villa last night, so they are obviously not a bad team to do that. It is quite exciting and I look forward to it.''

Shakhtar Donetsk, who won the last ever Uefa Cup when beating Werder Bremen in May, will play Club Brugge, Partizan Belgrade and Toulouse in Group J while the beaten finalists from Germany were drawn against Austria Vienna, Athletic Bilbao and Nacional in Group L.

Another standout fixture is the meeting between Greek side Panathinaikos and Galatasaray of Turkey in Group F.


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