Which Team Will Win the Europa League?
After the drama of some of Europe’s top clubs attempting to break away and form their very own Super League, the pressure has been on the footballing establishment to deliver high-quality tournaments in the form of the Europa League and Champions League.
This has meant doing away with the away goals rule for both competitions, as well as the creation of the third-tier Europa Conference League competition. It is unclear if this diluting of the European competitions will be a wise strategy moving forward, but because of the changes, there are more eyes on European football than ever before.
Here we take a look at the major players that remain in the Europa League, as clubs try to take advantage of the new rules put in place by UEFA.
Barcelona will be fancied by many to go all the way in the Europa League, having recruited well in January
Barcelona – Champions League Quality
Most football fans following the action in the Europa League keep on having to remind themselves that Spanish giants Barcelona are gunning for Europe’s second-tier competition, rather than the Champions League. While their form this season has been erratic, there are now signs that the founders of the tiki-taka style are finding their feet, both in La Liga and the Europa League. They proved this by rewarding the bets that were placed on them by disposing of Serie A contenders Napoli and beating the Gli Azzurri 5-3 on aggregate.
Thanks to this result they are now seen by betting experts as strong favorites to go all the way to the final, despite the presence of other heavyweights in the draw like Sevilla and RB Leipzig. This is especially true after Barça was drawn against Galatasaray in the last 16, a team they have a strong historical record against and who are languishing at the wrong end of the Turkish Superliga.
Rangers – Scottish Bravehearts
Rangers produced one of the shocks of the season when they dumped German powerhouses Borussia Dortmund out at the playoff stage of the Europa League. The Scottish champions suffered a brief lull in form after their manager Steven Gerrard swapped Ibrox for Villa Park, but they are now back on track under the former player and Dutch international, Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Red Star Belgrade are next up for the Gers and the Scottish press is already highlighting the hostile atmosphere that will likely await Rangers in the Serbian capital. Red Star will be fresh coming into the tie, having finished top of their group, but Rangers will take heart from their recent form, which has seen them claw their way back into the Scottish title race.
There have already been some major shocks in this year’s Europa League, with the likes of Borussia Dortmund being dumped out of the tournament by perennial Euro strugglers, Rangers
Sevilla – Spanish Surprise Package
With Barcelona still undergoing its rebuilding phase after the departure of Messi, Sevilla has emerged as the main rival for Real Madrid in La Liga. This probably means they will be plying their trade in the Champions League next season, but not before they have had a serious tilt at the Europa League in 2022. They face stiff competition in the form of fellow overachievers in West Ham, a team that boasts players like Jared Bowen.
However, Los Rojiblancos have plenty of European experience in their midst, with the likes of Ivan Rakitić, Man Utd rejecting Anthony Martial, and Jesús Navas all having the know-how required to make it through the toughest of ties. If Sevilla comes through against the Hammers, then they will be right up there as one of the most favored sides to win the tournament outright.
Leipzig – Could Find Their Europa League Wings
Red Bull’s foray into German football has largely been a success, but they continue to be held at bay by the Bundesliga’s more established teams, such as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. The same is true this season, meaning the club might be wise to prioritize a deep run in the Europa League.
That is especially true seeing as their round of 16 opponents, Spartak Moscow, have been ejected from the competition by UEFA, gifting Leipzig a free pass into the quarterfinals.