Chelsea’s Willian, left, celebrates scoring his side’s fourth goal against Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge in London Saturday. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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The Europa League group stage begins Thursday, with Arsenal, Chelsea, AC Milan and Sevilla among the leading sides hoping to negotiate a marathon competition all the way to the final in Baku in May.In contrast, winning the Champions League could be worth about five times that, while the team finishing bottom of the Premier League last season pocketed almost 95 million pounds ($124.8 million).But for a club like Arsenal, who start off at home to Ukraine's Vorskla Poltava, winning the Europa League is still a path into next season's Champions League.The Glasgow club have come through four qualifying rounds to make a first appearance in the group stage of a European competition since the 2010-11 Champions League.It is the kind of match-up that would be impossible in the modern Champions League – the mighty AC Milan play their first group game away to little Dudelange, the first team from Luxembourg to compete in the Europa League group stage.
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