Inviting draw for AEK with hopes of the knockout stages
AEK were handed an inviting draw for the Europa League group stages on Friday and will compete in group D with AC Milan, Austria Wien, and Rijeka.
After emphatically defeating Club Brugge 3-0 at the OAKA stadium in yesterday’s second leg fixture in the Europa League playoff qualifying round, AEK will compete in the group stages of a European competition for the first time in six years. The results of Friday’s Europa league group stage draw allow the Enosis to complete a noisy comeback to the European stage with hopes of advancing to the knockout stages of Europe's second tier club competition.
AEK were drawn into group D with AC Milan, Austria Wien, and Croatian champions Rijeka. Despite drawing Italian giants AC Milan, who are one of the favorites to win the competition, Austria Wien and Rijeka will not strike fear into the hearts of the AEK fans. On paper, the Kitrinomavri have the ability to surpass both teams and qualify for the knockout stages. The draw results could have been much worse (theoretically) as AEK were in the lowest seeded pot in the draw.
The clear favorites to win the group, AC Milan, bring back fond memories to the AEK fans. The Enosis recorded a historic 1-0 win over the European champions (at the time) in the 2006/07 Champions League group stages with Julio Cesar’s goal separating the sides at the final whistle.
AEK will fight for second spot with Austria Wien and Rijeka, two opponents that AEK can compete with and can justifiably set the knockout stages as a clear goal for their group stage campaign. Austria Wien scraped past Osijek in the playoff qualifying round (advanced on away goals) while Rijeka will be well known opponents as Olympiacos defeated the Croatian champions in both legs in Champions League qualifying.
AEK will first travel to Croatia to face Rijeka before hosting Austria Wien at the OAKA stadium. A double header will follow against AC MIlan with the first game set to take place in Italy and two weeks later, the teams will meet in Greece. AEK will host Rijka on matchday 5 and will travel to Austria for the final group match were the Enosis will hope to celebrate a place in the knockout stages of the competition.