Arsenal kick-off their Europa League campaign on Thursday aiming to prove that they are genuine contenders for silverware this season.
The Gunners are unlikely to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League this term, leaving the cup competitions as their best hope of lifting a trophy.
Unai Emery’s side have been drawn in Group E of this season’s competition alongside Portuguese outfit Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag of Azerbaijan and Ukrainian side Vorskla.
Emery won the Europa League three times in row when he was in charge of Sevilla and Arsenal will hope he proves to be equally successful with them.
Fans will certainly fancy Arsenal’s chances of progressing to the last 32, and odds of 8/1 to win the competition could look one of the best bookmaker offers for 2018 if the team plays to its potential.
The Premier League side open their Europa League campaign at home to Vorskla on September 20.
The Ukrainian outfit have only reached this stage of the competition once before, but finished bottom of their group in the 2011/12 campaign.
Arsenal travel to face Qarabag in early October and they will be big favourites to pick up three points.
Qarabag competed in the Champions League last season, but they finished bottom of a group containing Roma, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.
They have lost their four European matches against English opposition by an aggregate score of 14-1 and it is difficult to imagine them causing Emery’s side too many problems.
The Gunners visit Sporting at the end of the October for a game that is likely to be their toughest test in the opening stage.
The Portuguese club endured a difficult summer, with players rows disrupting their preparations for the new campaign. However, they have made a solid start in the Primeira Liga and could cause Arsenal some difficulties.
The two sides meet in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium in early November and the Gunners will undoubtedly be hoping they will be in a position to secure qualification to the knockout stage.
The final two group games against Vorskla (A) and Qarabag (H) offer a safety net if early results go against Arsenal, but Emery will hope that he is able to rest key players by this point.
Assuming Arsenal make it through to the last 32, they are likely to face some of Europe’s top clubs as the competition progresses.
Chelsea, Sevilla and AC Milan are in the Europa League from the outset, while there will be some big names dropping into the competition when the Champions League group stage is completed.
However, a favourable opening group and Emery’s previous Europa League record points to this being Arsenal’s best chance of winning silverware this season.