Seven-time European champion AC Milan’s reward for being reinstated in the Europa League includes a trip to Luxembourg. Milan, which won a Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal to overturn expulsion for breaking financial rules, was drawn Friday into a group with newcomer Dudelange. The group also includes Olympiakos and Real Betis.
In a September 1972 trip to Luxembourg, Milan beat Red Boys Differdange 4-1 to start its run to the European Cup Winners’ Cup title. Also Friday, Arsenal was drawn into a group with Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag and Vorskla Poltava.
Going to Azerbaijan to play Qarabag could be problematic for Arsenal forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is Armenian. Azerbaijan and Armenia are in a territorial dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and were unable to play their games in a 2008 European Championship qualifying group.
Mkhitaryan skipped a trip to Azerbaijan three years ago when his then-club Borussia Dortmund played Gabala. Dortmund cited security concerns to protect Mkhitaryan by leaving him at home. “It is a standard procedure for UEFA to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visa for players in order to be able to travel to another country and play in UEFA competition matches,” the European soccer body said in a statement after the draw.
The final will be played in Baku, Azerbaijan, on May 29. The same stadium will also host Euro 2020 games. Chelsea, the 2013 Europa League champion, was drawn into a group with PAOK Thessaloniki, BATE Borisov and Vidi, while five-time champion Sevilla will play Krasnodar, Standard Liege and Akhisar Belediyespor.
Salzburg and Leipzig, which share close ties with energy drink Red Bull, were drawn together in a group with Celtic and Rosenborg.
Red Bull owned both clubs until they were entered in the Champions League last season. Before Salzburg was eliminated in the qualifying rounds, the company persuaded UEFA in June 2017 it had divested its Salzburg stake to avoid breaking competition integrity rules on conflicts of interest. Marseille, last season’s runner-up, will face Lazio, Eintracht Frankfurt and Apollon Limassol in one of the toughest of the 12 groups.
Five years after it last played in the Champions League, Milan can aim to return to the elite competition with the automatic group-stage place given to Europa League winners. Milan’s recent slump in Serie A meant it missed several years of Champions League revenues. The club spent more than $200 million on players last year under new Chinese owners and failed to comply with UEFA rules monitoring transfer fees and wages.
UEFA’s attempt to ban Milan from its competitions for one season was overturned in court in July. CAS said the expulsion was “not proportionate” following a takeover completed days earlier by United States-based hedge fund Elliott Management.
Milan’s decline in Europe meant it dropped into the draw pot of second-seeded teams on Friday.