Yesterday, the defending champions, Liverpool, lost to Atletico Madrid, without registering a shot on target. In Germany, a certain teenager proved to the world that age is nothing but a number as he scored two against PSG. All of this Champions League noise is enough to make everyone forget about the Europa League.
However, while the UCL is glamorous in its own right, the Europa League is more hectic than glamorous. A league not for the faint-hearted, teams sometimes travel to the most remote locations in the world to sometimes conquer, and at other times, get their asses whooped.
Although the bookies can put a price on their preferred favorites, a number of clubs can go all the way to win the trophy. This year, the story has not changed, as the Europa League Round of 32 resumes on Thursday. In the space of a week, these 32 teams will be reduced to 16 when the boys are separated from the men. Which teams will you be rooting for in this round?
Surprisingly, Braga finished the group stages as the side with the best offensive record, having scored 15 goals in six games. Closely followed, with 14 goals scored, are Sevilla and Arsenal. All three sides finished top of their groups and will be looking to move past the Round of 32.
They, however, will face stiff competition, not just from their opponents, but from the teams that qualified by finishing third in the UCL group stages. One of such team is Inter Milan. While fighting for Serie A glory, Antonio Conte’s men will also be looking to fight their way past Ludogorets and go as far as possible.
Another side is Bayer Leverkusen. Up against Porto, the German side will be looking to bring their goal-scoring form to the fore. In their last six games, they have scored 17 goals. They face a Porto side that has only kept a clean sheet in two of their last 10 games.
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Away from the big names, Getafe is also another team in this round with a mission. Although the Spanish side could only score eight goals in six Europa League group stage games, they conceded only four goals, the second-joint best in the league this season. As they face off against Ajax, Wolves will be entering uncharted territory when they face off against Espanyol.
Two teams that will enter this stage of the competition without their key players are Sporting Lisbon and RB Salzburg. Both sides lost key players in the winter transfer window and now have to find ways to survive without these key players. Celtic and Rangers will also be looking to carry their league form into this competition when they take on Copehagen and Braga respectively.
Which of these teams will you be rooting for this week? Which of these sides do you think will qualify for the Round of 16? Drop your comments and share your thoughts with the world.