Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hailed Cologne as a "great club" as his Gunners prepare to do battle with the Billy Goats in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night (21:05CEST/19:05GMT).

Cologne will walk out at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium for their return to Europe after an absence of 25 years, and although there could hardly be more illustrious opponents to welcome them, Wenger was instead keen to point out that the Bundesliga side also have a great history which always makes them formidable foes.

"They are a great club," Wenger said at his pre-match press conference. "They've always been interesting. They've had great players like [Wolfgang] Overath and [Lukas] Podolski, who also came to us."

Podolski needs no introduction to Cologne and Bundesliga fans, but Wenger promises he has not had any contact with the former Germany international, who he has decreed as "the second mayor of Cologne."

All the Frenchman knows about Cologne ahead of the sides' Europa League meeting comes from in-depth scouting and not, he says, from a glance at the current Bundesliga table, where Peter Stöger's men can be seen propping up the rest.

Watch: Jonas Hector is one to watch for Cologne in the Europa League

"That is what makes them so dangerous, though," Wenger said. "It's always good for you to play in a different competition when you've had such defeats, because you're not under the same pressure as you are in the league. They've got nothing to lose."

And plenty to win, according to Stöger, who is not going to be in awe of playing a side used to featuring in the UEFA Champions League. "I'm quite confident," said the Austrian. "We've faced sides in the Bundesliga who are on a similar level and we've got positive results against them, so I can sleep easily."

Stöger will hope for a similarly good night's sleep on Thursday, with the first positive result of the season in the bank after Cologne's long-awaited 26th European campaign – their first since 1992 – gets up and running.

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