MONACO — Seven-time European champion AC Milan’s bid for a first Europa League title continues in a group with Austria Vienna, Croatian champion Rijeka and AEK Athens.
Milan returns to UEFA competitions after a three-year absence, and avoided long travel for Thursday games that lurk in the 48-team draw.
Arsenal, however, will go to Belarus to face BATE Borisov and also plays Cologne and Red Star Belgrade. Arsene Wenger’s team last played in the second-tier competition in 2000 when it was UEFA Cup runner-up.
Tough groups included the pool of Lyon, Everton, Atalanta and Apollon Limassol, and top-seeded Lazio with Nice, Zulte Waregem and Vitesse.
Zenit St. Petersburg, the 2008 UEFA Cup winner, was grouped with Real Sociedad, Rosenborg — which eliminated Ajax in the playoffs on Thursday — and Vardar of Macedonia.
The top two teams in each group advance to a Round of 32 which includes eight third-place teams from Champions league groups.
Games kick off Sept. 14, and Lyon hosts the final on May 16.
Group A: Villarreal (Spain), Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Israel), Astana (Kazakhstan), Slavia Prague (Czech Republic).
Group B: Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine), Young Boys (Switzerland), Partizan (Serbia), Skenderbeu (Albania).
Group C: Braga (Portugal), Ludogorets Razgrad (Bulgaria), Hoffenheim (Germany), Istanbul Basaksehir (Turkey).
Group D: AC Milan (Italy), Austria Vienna (Austria), Rijeka (Croatia), AEK Athens (Greece).
Group E: Lyon (France), Everton (England), Atalanta (Italy), Apollon Limassol (Cyprus).
Group F: Copenhagen (Denmark), Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia), Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova), Zlin (Czech Republic).
Group G: Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic), FCSB (Romania), Hapoel Beer-Sheva (Israel), Lugano (Switzerland).
Group H: Arsenal (England), BATE Borisov (Belarus), Cologne (Germany), Red Star Belgrade (Serbia).
Group I: Salzburg (Austria), Marseille (France), Vitoria Guimaraes (Portugal), Konyaspor (Turkey).
Group J: Athletic Bilbao (Spain), Hertha Berlin (Germany), Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine), Ostersund (Sweden).
Group K: Lazio (Italy), Nice (France), Zulte Waregem (Belgium), Vitesse (Netherlands).
Group L: Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia), Real Sociedad (Spain), Rosenborg (Norway), Vardar (Macedonia).