A reported 20,000 Cologne fans are set to descend on London on Thursday as the Billy Goats take on Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League, marking their return to a major European competition for the first time in 25 years (kick-off 21:05CEST/19:05GMT).
It has been a long, long wait. Cologne are gearing up for their first continental campaign since taking part in the UEFA Cup in 1992/93 - and understandably, their fans are clamouring to be a part of it.
Renowned as some of the most passionate supporters in world football, the Cologne faithful are set to flock to London en masse this week, as their side take on English giants Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Only 2,900 fans will actually be able to enjoy the game from inside the stadium, but many thousands more will squeeze into the local bars and pubs to cheer on their beloved Billy Goats.
UEFA Cup runners-up in 1985/86, Cologne have faced Arsenal once before in UEFA competition, advancing to the semi-finals of the 1970/71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup - the forerunner to the UEFA Cup and Europa League - 2-2 on away goals. They also have fond memories of an 8-0 win over the Gunners' north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the 1995 Intertoto Cup.
We just had this coming down the street. Koln fans arriving for a trip to the Emirates Stadium. Long walk! pic.twitter.com/tUPHNTvx4r— Ken Loach (@KenLoachSixteen) September 14, 2017
The reported 20,000 fans travelling the 500 kilometres from Cologne to London may not be treated to the same kind of spectacle on Thursday night, but it still promises to be a memorable occasion for the club and its supporters.
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