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Holders Shakhtar get prime Europa League draw

  • Story Highlights
  • Europa League holders Shakhtar Donetsk look a good bet to reach the last 32
  • The Ukrainians are drawn with Club Brugge, Partizan Belgrade and Toulouse
  • Everton will face Benfica, Greeks AEK Athens and BATE Borisov from Belarus
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(CNN) -- Europa League holders Shakhtar Donetsk look a good bet to progress to the last 32 of this year's competition after being pitted against Belgian side Club Brugge, Serbian champions Partizan Belgrade and Toulouse of France in the group phase on Friday.

Holders Shakhtar Donetsk look to have a good chance to progress further in this year's Europa League.

Holders Shakhtar Donetsk look to have a good chance to progress further in this year's Europa League.

The Ukrainian side, who face Barcelona in the Super Cup final in Monaco on Friday, won what was then the UEFA Cup last season by beating Werder Bremen in the final in Istanbul.

They had been hoping for a decent run in the Champions League but surprisingly lost out to Timisoara over two legs at the third qualifying round stage.

Now they will aim to emulate the exploits of Sevilla in 2006 and 2007 by retaining the cup, and will be expected to win Group J.

Villarreal, who have performed well in the Champions League in recent years, head a tough-looking Group G which also features Italian side Lazio, plus the champions of Austria (Red Bull Salzburg) and Bulgaria (Levski Sofia).

English FA Cup runners-up Everton will face Portuguese giants Benfica, Greek side AEK Athens and BATE Borisov from Belarus in Group I.

Meanwhile, England's only other representatives Fulham face a trip to Italy to take on Roma and must also tackle Swiss side Basle and CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria in Group E.

Celtic, who dropped out of the Champions League at the play-off stage after a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Arsenal, are up against Bundesliga side Hamburg, Israeli side Hapoel Tel-Aviv and Rapid Vienna of Austria, who knocked out Aston Villa, in Group C.

The Netherlands meets Belgium in Group A, with four-times European champions Ajax set to face 1982 UEFA Cup winners Anderlecht. Shakhtar's Champions League conquerors Timisoara of Romania and Dinamo Zagreb round out the group.

Valencia, winners of the competition in 2004, are the top seeds in Group B where they will also face Lille of France, Czechs Slavia Prague and Genoa of Italy.

Portugal's Sporting Lisbon head up Group D where they are joined by Dutch side Heerenveen, Hertha Berlin of Germany and Latvians Ventspils.

There is a mouth-watering clash in Group F where Greek side Panathinaikos are up against Galatasaray of Turkey. The teams are led by the former coaching double act at Barcelona, with Frank Rijkaard in charge at Galatasaray and fellow-Dutchman Henk Ten Cate coaching Panathinaikos.

Dinamo Bucharest and Sturm Graz of Austria are the other sides in the group.

Steaua Bucharest, European champions in 1986, are in a group with Turkish giants Fenerbahce, Dutch side FC Twente and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova.

PSV Eindhoven are the big names in Group K and the 1988 European champions will be up against FC Copenhagen, Sparta Prague and CFR Cluj of Romania.

Group L is headed by last year's runners-up Werder Bremen, with the Germans taking on Austria Vienna, Athletic Bilbao of Spain and Nacional of Portugal.

The first round of matches will be played on Thursday, September 17, with the top two teams from each group progressing to the last 32, where they will be joined by the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group phase.

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