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Alkmaar, Maccabi Haifa and Shakhter Karagandy drawn against PAOK


PAOK have been drawn in UEFA Europa League Group L, along with AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), Maccabi Haifa FC (Israel) and FC Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhstan).

Dutch Cup holders Alkmaar had to dig deep to eliminate Atromitos in the UEFA Europa League play-offs. Despite deriving from a renowned footballing nation, they are quite vulnerable. They play their home matches at “AFAS Stadion” (capacity of17.000), that had to be evacuated on Thursday due to a fire in the restaurant. The match against Atromitos was abandoned and concluded on Friday. Alkmaar eliminated PAOK back in 2004 in the UEFA Cup qualifiers, recording two victories (2-1 in the Netherlands and 3-2 in Toumba).

Maccabi Haifa find themselves in the group stage after eliminating Xäzär Länkäran FK (Azerbaijan), FK Ventspils (Latvia) and FC Astra (Romania) in the previous rounds. Spanish attacking midfielder Rayos, up until last season at Asteras Tripolis, has joined the Israeli outfit, who are playing their home matches at “Kiryat Eliezer” (capacity: 14.000). This draw marks PAOK’s fourth “date” with an Israeli team. The “Double-Headed Eagle” eliminated Beitar Jerusalem (2000-01) and Bnei Yehuda (2012-13), but couldn’t go past Maccabi Tel-Aviv (2004-05).

Shakhter are the question-mark of Group L. The side from Kazakhstan have their home at Karagandy (more than 5.000 kms away from Thessaloniki) and gave a major fright to Celtic FC in the UEFA Champions League play-offs. Starting from the competition’s 2nd qualifying round, Shakhter eliminated FC Bate Borisov (Belarus) and then KS Skënderbeu (Albania).

In the UEFA Champions League play-offs, the Kazakhs recorded a famous 2-0 victory over Celtic in Astana (200 kms away from Karagandy). But in the second leg, they were defeated 3-0 with a last minute goal by the Scottish champions.

The 12 UEFA Europea League groups:

Group A: Valencia CF (Spain), Swansea City AFC (England), FC Kuban Krasnodar (Russia), FC St Gallen (Switzerland).
Group B: PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), GNK Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), FC Chornomorets Odesa (Ukraine), PFC Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria).
Group C: R. Standard de Liège (Belgium), FC Salzburg (Austria), IF Elfsborg (Sweden), Esbjerg fB (Denmark).
Group D: FC Rubin Kazan (Russia), Wigan Athletic FC (England), NK Maribor (Slovenia), SV Zulte Waregem (Belgium).
Group E: ACF Fiorentina (Italy), FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine), FC Paços de Ferreira (Portugal), CS Pandurii Târgu Jiu (Romania).
Group F: FC Girondins de Bordeaux (France), APOEL FC (Cyprus), Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC (Israel).
Group G: FC Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine), KRC Genk (Belgium), SK Rapid Wien (Austria), FC Thun (Switzerland).
Group H: Sevilla FC (Spain), SC Freiburg (Germany), Estoril Praia (Portugal), FC Slovan Liberec (Czech Republic).
Group I: Olympique Lyonnais (France), Real Betis Balompié (Spain), Vitória SC (Portugal), HNK Rijeka (Croatia).
Group J: SS Lazio (Italy), Trabzonspor AŞ (Turkey), Legia Warszawa (Poland), Apollon Limassol FC (Cyprus).
Group K: Tottenham Hotspur FC (England), FC Anji Makhachkala (Russia), FC Sheriff (Moldova), Tromsø IL (Norway).
Group L: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), PAOK FC (GREECE), Maccabi Haifa FC (Israel), FC Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhstan).

PAOK schedule:

PAOK – Shakhter: 19 September (22.05)
Alkmaar – PAOK: 3 October (20.00)
PAOK – Maccabi Haifa: 24 October (20.00)
Maccabi Haifa – PAOK: 7 November (22.05)
Shakhter – PAOK: 28 November (19.00)
PAOK – Alkmaar: 12 December (22.05)

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