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Soccer-Sevilla coach plays down Europa League favourites tag

Reuters

(Adding details, quotes)

By Mike Collett

MONACO, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Sevilla coach Unai Emery played down talk of them being favourites to retain the Europa League title this season after they were drawn to play Standard Liege, Feyenoord and HNK Rijeka in Friday's group stage draw.

"Its great to be back in Europe again. We have a difficult group but an interesting one," he told a news conference in Seville.

"Any team in Europe is dangerous and can beat you.

"That is the way it is but it is great to be able to defend our title, but who says we are favourites? We are contenders because we are defending the title and we want to have another good run in the competition, but we are not favourites."

Europe's second-tier competition, which comprises 48 teams in 12 groups, with the addition of eight "demoted" Champions League clubs after the group stage, has been given added lustre this season with the winners qualifying for at least the Champions League playoffs in 2015-16.

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As well as Sevilla, who also lifted the trophy in 2006 and 2007, the other contenders include former European champions PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan, former UEFA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur and Napoli, and former European Cup Winners' Cup holders Everton.

Everton, back in Europe after a five-year absence, face Lille, VfL Wolfsburg and Krasnodar of Russia and club ambassador Graeme Sharp told Reuters in Monte Carlo he could not wait for the return of European nights to Goodison Park.

Sharp, who played in the Everton side that won the Cup Winners Cup in 1985, said: "Of course the incentive is to win the competition and not just because of the Champions League place, because at this stage of the season that seems a long way off.

"But it is great for Everton to be back in Europe after a few years away because European nights are so special at Goodison Park. We want to do well and be back in Europe regularly again and I am sure the manager will pick the team to try and make that happen."

Besiktas of Turkey, who were knocked out of the Champions League playoffs by Arsenal on Wednesday, face a return to north London after being grouped with Tottenham Hotspur, who lifted the trophy in 1972 and 1984, Partizan Belgrade and Greek team Asteras Tripolis.

Legia Warsaw and Celtic were drawn apart to avoid a repeat of their controversial Champions League qualifying round tie earlier this month.

Legia were kicked out of the Champions League for playing an ineligible player in their 6-1 aggregate success over Celtic, with the Scottish champions re-instated in their place.

Yet the reprieved Celtic then lost to Maribor in their playoff this week, dropping into Europe's second tier competition.

Celtic were placed in Group D along with Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb and Astra of Romania, while Legia will meet Metalist Kharkiv, Trabzonspor and Lokeren in Group L.

Legia lost millions of euros in revenue from the administrative error that cost them their Champions League place, but the story could yet have a happy ending for them, if they were to win the final in Warsaw on May 27. (additional reporting by Tim Hanlon in Barcelona, editing by Tony Jimenez and Toby Davis)

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