For the first time since 2015/16, Liverpool are preparing for life in the Europa League.
On Friday morning, the Reds discovered who they’d be facing in the group stage.
Formerly known as the UEFA Cup, the Europa League is a competition that the Reds have won three times in their history – the most recent of which came in 2001, which saw Gerard Houllier’s side pick up a famous golden goal win to beat Alaves 5-4 in a dramatic final.
Going into this season, Liverpool are early favourites to be victors once again, being (by far) the highest ranked Europa League side in terms of UEFA’s club coefficient.
With the Reds more accustomed to the Champions League, there were a fair few unfamiliar names that appeared in Friday’s draw.
Let’s take a deeper look at the sides the Reds will be matched up against in Group E in the coming weeks.
© Proshots – Europa League
City: Linz, Austria
Stadium: Raiffeisen Arena (19,000 capacity)
Manager: Thomas Sageder
Out of Pot 2, Austrian Bundesliga side LASK.
LASK have increasingly enjoyed spells in Europe in recent years, going as far as to reach the Europa League round of 16 in the 2019/20 season – only to be pummelled by Manchester United.
Coming third in Austria last season, LASK will be pushing to at least make it out the group, and may prove a challenge if the Reds fail to take take them seriously.
LASK are also one of two teams in the group that Liverpool have never played before – something which will be sure to add a bit of intrigue to the contest.
Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (Belgium)
City: Brussels, Belgium
Stadium: Joseph Marien Stadium (9,400 capacity)
Manager: Alexander Blessin
On to the other team that Liverpool have never faced.
Pulled out of Pot 3, Royale Union Saint-Gilloise have had a pretty astounding rise to prominence in recent years – something which has largely gone under the radar.
Union SG were promoted to the Belgian Pro League in 2021, having been absent from the top flight for 48 years, and in their first season back, they went on to top the league – only to miss out on the title in the end of season championship playoffs.
Last season, they pulled off a similar feat; coming second in the league before, again, just missing out on the title through the playoffs.
A reason for their recent success comes from their relationship with Brighton & Hove Albion – during the 2021/22 season, Union SG brought in both Kaoru Mitoma and Deniz Undav on loan, two players who went on to light up the Belgian top tier. Simon Adingra made the same move last season, and similar to Undav before him, he went on to lead the scoring charts for the club.
And after reaching the quarter-finals in last year’s Europa League, Union SG are enjoying one of the most fascinating and fastest rises in European football at the moment, both as a club seeking success and a breeding ground for young talent.
Liverpool will surely have their work cut out for them when making the trip to Brussels.
READ MORE: Union SG players celebrate drawing Liverpool in Europa League group
Toulouse FC (France)
City: Toulouse, France
Stadium: Stadium TFC (33,150 capacity)
Manager: Carles Martínez Novell
The fourth and final team to be pulled from the pot was Toulouse – and finally, it’s a team Liverpool have actually met before!
The last time the Reds came up against Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse was in 2007, with the two teams meeting in a Champions League qualifier no less.
Dirk Kuyt bagged an Anfield brace as the Reds dismantled the French side in a 5-0 aggregate win over two legs – a result you can be sure Toulouse fans will be eager for their side to avenge.
Toulouse have experienced a welcome rejuvenation of late. After suffering relegation in 2020 for the first time in nearly two decades, Les Violets have bounced back to France’s top flight looking like a new team, and last season managed to even win their first ever Coupe de France.
If they pull off an upset against the side that denied them Champions League football all those years ago, it would be sure to go down in Toulousian folklore.