The UEFA Europa League is the kind of competition that doesn’t get the respect that it deserves, which is a shame. For those teams that can’t yet break into the UEFA Champions League, it offers up a nice opportunity for them to go far in a competition full of other hungry teams that we otherwise wouldn’t have heard of from around Europe. It’s a constantly evolving process trying to get people to understand why it has some value, and it’s something that fans like us will be working on for many years to come.
Of course, as we all know Arsenal are currently in the final eight of the Europa League with just four games separating themselves and the final in Baku. They’ve got a tricky tie against Napoli coming up in the quarter finals, and beyond that, who knows what could lie ahead. They managed to reach the last four last season but given how much confidence they’ve built up over the course of the season, there’s every reason to believe they can go one (or two) steps further.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the other contenders.
Napoli came very, very close to crashing out against RB Salzburg in the last round, which should give the Gunners confidence. They’re currently situated in second place in Serie A, but given how well English sides have done against other nations this year, there’s no reason for Arsenal to think they can’t make it through.
They’re romping towards the Czech title and have lost just once in their last 11 games. Dark horses, anyone? They’ll be taking on Chelsea which will be a tough test in itself, but after dispatching of Europa League kings Sevilla, they’ll be very confident.
The Blues are struggling to lead the way in the race for the top four in the Premier League, with many fans seeing the Europa League as Maurizio Sarri’s last chance to save their season. With that kind of pressure on their shoulders, who knows what kind of performance they’ll come out with.
They’re top of the table in Portugal and dispatched of Dinamo Zagreb pretty effectively in the second leg of the last round. They’ve been known to slip up in the past at late stages of European competitions, but they’ve got a lot of quality in their ranks.
They’re in 5th in the Bundesliga and are unbeaten in their last 13 games. Frankfurt are slowly but surely flying under the radar, and they even managed to beat Inter Milan in the last round.
Battling the threat of relegation in La Liga yet thriving in Europe? We’ve heard that before. Villarreal are incredibly dangerous and we can see them making a Cinderella run all the way to the final if they start off well in their quarter final first leg.
Valencia are very much a middle of the road kind of team and whilst we do think they should be respected, we aren’t sure they’re capable of winning the whole thing this year.
Who do you think is the favourite to win the Europa League?