This edition of the UEFA Europa League is very particular because of the presence in the group stage of the Serbian archrivals FK Crvena Zvezda and FK Partizan, its the first time that both teams feature in a group stage of a UEFA club competition.
Other interesting fact is the return after many years of absence of 3 very traditional teams like FC Zlin (12 years) Atalanta (26 years) and 1.FC Köln (25 years)
Also Real Sociedad returns to European football, the last time they played a UEFA club competition group stage was in the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League and FK Crvena Zvezda returns to a a UEFA club competition group stage 10 years after their last participation when the competition was then called UEFA Cup, after that edition they have been qualifying to European competitions but always being eliminated in the last stage previous to the group stage, the playoffs stage.
The debutants in the competition are Hoffenheim who were one of the surprises the last season in the Bundesliga and Skenderbeu from Albania returns to the competition, the last time they played in the Europa League was in the 2015-16 season, FC Zlin also returns to European football, its the first time that they will play Europa League, before this, their only experience in European football was the Intertoto Cup in 2004 and 2005, Ostersund fromSweden who defeated Galatasaray in the qualifying rounds.
FK Vardar from F.Y.R Macedonia make their maiden appearance after having an amazing qualifying stage performances vs very powerful teams, after winning the Macedonian title they played in the Champons League qualifying but were eliminated by Copenhague in the 3rd qualifying round and they were dropped to the Europa League where they won in the playoffs against Fenerbahce who were the favorites to win the tie, this performance is really a historic milestone for Vardar because they haven´t reached so far since the 2003-04 Champions League season where in that edition they went as far as the 3rd qualifying round (the previous stage before the group stage) where they lost vs Sparta Prague.
Hertha BSC is back in European football after 8 years of absence, after passing for being relegated to the 2.Bundesliga but returning quickly to the Bundesliga with a renovated and strong team.
FC Lugano and HNK Rijeka returns to European football after many years of absence.
Istanbul Basaksehir is other of the debutants in this edition
FC Astana returns to a group stage of European competition to fly the Kazakh flah across the continent.