For quite a while now, the Europa League has always been pushed to the back by the UEFA Champions League. And why not? The mega stars play their football in the UCL while the EL just features the stars that look up to the stars playing in the Champions League.
Okay. The last line is arguable but the reason we mentioned it is because all that may be about to change in the coming days. No doubt, the Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs of this world are still in the UCL. But when you look at the caliber of teams and players currently competing for the Europa League, it’s hard to look away.
The competition is in its knockout stages already and these are the fixtures to look out for:
- FC Astana vs. Sporting CP
- Marseille vs. Braga
- Oestersunds FK vs. Arsenal
- Ludogorets Razgrad vs. AC Milan
- Real Sociedad vs. Salzburg
- Spartak Moscow vs. Athletic Bilbao
- Nice vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
- Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta
- FC FCSB vs. Lazio
- Partizan Belgrade vs. Viktoria Plzen
- Lyon vs. Villarreal
- Napoli vs. RasenBallsport Leipzig
- Celtic vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
- AEK Athens vs. Dynamo Kyiv
- FC Copenhagen vs. Atletico Madrid
See any familiar names? Napoli is currently leading the Serie A table. RB Leipzig is second on the German Bundesliga table. It is the same for Atletico Madrid in the La Liga and Marseille in the French Ligue 1. You will agree that this schedule list features some major contenders for this season’s Europa League title.
Of course, with all these A-list teams, the knockout stages will be as exciting as can be. But which of these teams will you bet on to progress out of the group? Most of these big teams will be playing against smaller, less-known teams.
This may mean big wins for the likes of Arsenal, Atletico Madrid and Lazio. It could also mean that these games could end in a surprise win for the underdogs.
Some other fixtures are pretty tough to call. Lyon vs. Villarreal is a game featuring two sides that love to score. It could go either ways because of the amount of goals that could be scored.
It’s the same with the Napoli vs. Leipzig game. First in Italy taking on second in Germany. Dortmund vs. Atlanta and Celtic vs. Zenit are all games that are very close to call because of how good the teams involved are.
But then again, if you were to put your money on some of these teams winning the first leg of their Europa League Round of 32 fixtures, which team will that be? Will it be a top team from Europe’s top 5 leagues or will you be going against the odds by backing a smaller team?
Which team(s) are you backing? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.