Liverpool now know their Europa League group stage opponents, following Friday’s draw, and Henry Jackson looks at each side in detail.
The draw took place in Monaco on Friday lunchtime, and saw Liverpool pitted against Rubin Kazan of Russia, French side Bordeaux and Swiss outfit FC Sion in Group B of Europe’s second biggest club competition.
Brendan Rodgers and his side will be hoping for a strong showing in the tournament, with the winner earning a place in next season’s Champions League.
Here is the lowdown on Liverpool’s three upcoming opponents.
Stadium: Kazan Arena
Manager: Rinat Bilyaletdinov
The 58-year-old Russian has been in charge since 2014, following a caretaker spell in charge at Lokomotiv Moscow.
He also managed their B team between 2004 and 2009, and was a competent midfielder during a playing career lasting nearly two decades.
Captain: Gokdeniz Karadeniz
The 35-year-old has been with Kazan since 2008, and is seen as something of a club legend.
He won 50 caps for Turkey between 2003 and 2008, and despite his best days being behind him, he can still excel in his attacking midfield role.
Liverpool and Kazan have never met in a competitive match, making the first meeting between the two historic for both clubs.
Kazan finished fifth in the Russian Premier League, behind Zenit St. Petersburg, CSKA Moscow, Krasnodar and Dynamo Moscow.
Igor Portnyagin was their top scorer in the league with 11 goals – 12 in all competitions – with captain Karadeniz chipping in with seven of his own.
How Did They Qualify?
The Russian’s overcame Austrian side Sturm Graz in the third qualifying round, following a 4-3 aggregate triumph, and qualified for the group stages after seeing off Macedonian outfit FK Rabotnicki.
Kazan were entered into the qualifying round by virtue of FFP restrictions ruling Dynamo Moscow out of the tournament.
Stadium: Nouveaux Stade de Bordeaux
Manager: Willy Sagnol
Sagnol has been in charge of the Ligue 1 side since last year, following a spell as manager of France’s Under-21 side.
The 38-year-old Frenchman enjoyed a terrific playing career, winning 58 caps for Les Bleus and earning a reputation as one of Europe’s most reliable right-backs during nearly a decade with Bayern Munich.
Captain: Ludovic Sane
The 28-year-old Senegal international has become an integral part of Bordeaux’s team since arriving from US Lormont six years ago.
Used primarily as a holding midfielder – he can also shine at centre-back – Sane has won 25 caps for his country since his debut back in 2010.
Liverpool last met Bordeaux in a Champions League group stage clash on Halloween in 2006, and it was the Reds who prevailed on the night.
A Luis Garcia double was sandwiched by a Steven Gerrard strike, as Rafa Benitez’s side eased to three points at Anfield. They had also won the return fixture 1-0, thanks to Peter Crouch’s second-half goal.
This remains the only two times the sides have met competitively.
Sagnol’s side had to settle for a sixth-placed finish in Ligue 1, with Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon, Monaco, Marseille and Saint-Etienne proving too strong for them.
Star striker Diego Rolan was Bordeaux’s top scorer in the league with 15 goals, and will be one that Liverpool’s defence must keep a close on eye on.
How Did They Qualify?
Bordeaux also had to conquer two challenges in order to reach the group stages, but they just about did enough to squeeze through.
A 4-0 aggregate win over AEK Lamaca of Cyprus in the third qualifying round came first, before progressing on away goals against FC Kairat Almaty.
Stadium: Stade Tourbillon
Manager: Didier Tholot
Tholot enjoyed two spells with the Swiss club as a player – 1997-1999 and 2003-04 – before returning as manager for a second time in 2013.
The 51-year-old took on the role having been Claude Makelele’s assistant at Bastia last year, four years after his first spell as Sion boss came to an end.
Captain: Vilmos Vanczak
Vanczak is an undisputed Sion legend, having spent eight years at the club and counting, and also has a highly impressive 79 caps at international level for Hungary.
The imposing full-back is 32 years of age now, but remains an important figure for both club and country.
Liverpool’s last showdown with the Swiss outfit came in October 1996, in a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup second round tie.
Roy Evans’ side had won the first leg 2-1 thanks to goals from club legends Fowler and John Barnes, and the second leg at Anfield was an absolute goalfest.
Fowler bagged a brace, Barnes scored again and there were further efforts from Steve McManaman, Stig Inge Bjornebye and Patrik Berger.
Liverpool ended up 6-3 winners on the night, progressing 8-4 on aggregate.
Sion’s performance in the Swiss Super League last season shouldn’t exactly fill Liverpool with too much fear, with Tholot’s team finishing seventh.
Moussa Konate, arguably their most dangerous player, was the third highest scorer in the league, however, finding the net on 16 occasions.
The 22-year-old Senegalese star has five goals in 10 games for his country, and is one to watch.
How Did They Qualify?
Sion’s route to the Europa League was slightly different than that of Liverpool’s two other opponents.
Their Swiss Cup triumph, which included a brilliant 3-0 win against much-fancied FC Basel in the final, saw them reach the competition in style.