Shamrock face Spurs, Bilbao meet PSG
© AFP

Shamrock Rovers have been rewarded for becoming the first Irish club to reach the group stages of a UEFA competition by being drawn alongside Tottenham Hotspur in Group A of the UEFA Europa League.

The Dublin club stunned former European Cup finalists Partizan Belgrade with an extra-time victory in the play-off round, and as well as facing the Premier League giants, they will come up against Rubin Kazan and PAOK Salonika.

"We would have taken anybody, it's a great draw for our fans," said Shamrock chairman Jonathan Roche. "Tottenham are so close to us. Last night was an historic occasion for us and to top it off like this, it hasn't quite soaked in.

"It's been an unbelievable two days. Five years ago we were relegated, then the fans took over the club. We won the league for the first time in 16 years last season.

Last night was an historic occasion for us and to top it off like this, it hasn't quite soaked in.
Jonathan Roche, Shamrock Rovers chairman

"Hopefully now this shows people that we play a good style of football. It's not really about the money but it's the whole razzmatazz and the whole profile on the football club. Hopefully we can do ourselves justice."

Russian side Rubin were in the UEFA Champions League group stages in each of the last two years but their bid to return to Europe's elite club competition this year ended in defeat to Lyon in the play-offs.

Tottenham are one of four English sides in the group stages, and it is Stoke City that appear to have the toughest draw. Among their opponents in Group E are Dynamo Kyiv of Ukraine and Turkey's Besiktas, both clubs with considerable Champions League experience.

Fulham will face three teams who dropped out of the Champions League qualifiers in the shape of FC Twente, Odense of Denmark and Polish champions Wisla Krakow.

Birmingham City will play last season's Europa League runners-up Braga as well as Club Brugge and Rangers' conquerors Maribor in Group H.

Spanish sides face stiff tests
There are mouthwatering draws elsewhere with Paris Saint-Germain set to meet Spanish giants Athletic Bilbao, a formidable side, with Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa able to call upon the likes of FIFA World Cup™ winners Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez.

Group I is arguably the pick of the groups as Atletico Madrid, who won the inaugural Europa League in 2010, meet Udinese, Rennes and FC Sion.

Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin has identified Atletico as the biggest threat to his side advancing to the next round.

He said: "I accept the draw although our group is not easy. Atletico Madrid is a rival of great quality. We want to do well in this competition and we will do everything to qualify to the next round."

UEFA Europa League group stage draw:

Group A: Tottenham Hotspur, Rubin Kazan, PAOK Salonika, Shamrock Rovers
Group B: FC Copenhagen, Standard Liege, Hannover, Vorskla Poltava
Group C: PSV Eindhoven, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Rapid Bucharest, Legia Warsaw
Group D: Sporting CP, Lazio, FC Zurich, FC Vaslui
Group E: Dynamo Kyiv, Besiktas, Stoke City, Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Group F: Paris Saint-Germain, Athletic Bilbao, Salzburg, Slovan Bratislava
Group G: AZ Alkmaar, Metalist Kharkiv, Austria Vienna, Malmo
Group H: Braga, Club Brugge, Birmingham City, Maribor
Group I: Atletico Madrid, Udinese, Rennes, FC Sion
Group J: Schalke, Steaua Bucharest, Maccabi Haifa, AEK Larnaca
Group K: FC Twente, Fulham, Odense, Wisla Krakow
Group L: Anderlecht, AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow, Sturm Graz