As Sevilla look set to reach the knockout phase of the Champions League, the Europa League seems set to be lifted this season by a different club for the first time since 2012. The Spanish side have dominated European football’s secondary club competition in recent years, but Sevilla fans will have higher hopes should they go on to reach the last-32 in the Champions League than winning the Europa League for a fourth straight season.
Assessing this Season’s Europa League Contenders!
In their absence, this year’s Europa League looks to be an extremely open affair. And while we don’t yet know how the front-runners will look when the tournament welcomes those clubs that finish third in their Champions League group, there is a good chance the team that go on the lift the trophy at the Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden, next May could already be participating in the competition.
Manchester United: While Jose Mourinho will have his focus on the domestic silverware rather than European in his first season in as United manager, the Portuguese coach could do a lot worse than end the campaign with at least one trophy in the cabinet. With the likes Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at his disposal, Mourinho isn’t short of world class talent as United attempt to win the Europa League for the first time in the club’s history.
Roma: Sat at around 11/1 with the Europa League betting odds, Roma are another club who have all the tools to win the competition this season. Having lost out to Porto in the Champions League qualifying play-off, the Italian giants will be looking to ensure their European campaign isn’t a complete write off this year. Currently second in Serie A and looking very strong so far in their continental campaign, Luciano Spalletti’s men look a very decent bet to end the season with at least one piece of silverware to their name.
Schalke FC: While things haven’t been going particularly well for Schalke in the Bundesliga this season, it’s been a very different story for the German side in the Europa League. After winning their opening four Group I games the club secured their place in the next round of the tournament, and Markus Weinzierl will know a poor domestic campaign could be forgiven if he can lead Schalke to the latter stages of the Europa League. The club won this competition under its previous guise in 1996/97, and Die Konigsblauen have a very good chance of repeating that feat exactly 20 years later.
Shakhtar Donetsk: Last year’s semi-finalists will be hoping to go at least one stage better this year, and the Ukrainian giants could well be ones to watch this season. Having failed to reach the Champions League group stage, manager Paulo Fonseca will be under some pressure to mount a strong campaign in this competition. Currently topping the table in the Ukrainian Premier League and their Europa League group, the young manager has made an encouraging start to life at Shakhtar, and this team are definitely strong enough to be genuine contenders even when those Champions League clubs enter the tournament.