FC Barcelona find themselves in the Europa League once again after a disappointing Champions League group stage run. They are about to take on Manchester United in the knockout round playoffs.
Let’s take a brief look at the likely rival favourites to win this year’s Europa League, as Xavi plans to collect his first European silverware.
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Arsenal is one of the most in-form teams in Europe right now. It’s been three years since Mikel Arteta was appointed as Arsenal manager and it’s been a rollercoaster thus far. A ride that many thought would crash and burn, yet Gunners appear to be on the way up. Arteta has created an unplayable force in North London filled with young talents such as Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, William Saliba and the list goes on.
Arsenal have registered 16 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses and they remain 1st in the Premier League table. They are unbeaten at Emirates and on their way to clinching the league title.
They have already qualified for the Round of 16 after finishing first in their group with 15 points.
The last time Barcelona faced Arsenal on a European night was 7 years ago in the Champions League R16 where Barca won 3-1. Both have transformed and evolved a lot since then. They are two teams in red-hot form, packed with youth and passion, and managed by young Spanish tacticians inspired by Pep Guardiola.
Even though it’s not in the Champions League, it’s safe to say that if Barca meets Arsenal in the tournament, it would be one of the most entertaining or if not The Most Entertaining Game this season.
Best UEFA Cup/Europa League performance: Runners-up (1999/2000, 2018/19)
Player to watch: Martin Ødegaard
Manchester United (England)
With Erik ten Hag’s arrival and Marcus Rashford finding his touch again, Manchester United have been impressing Europe in recent months.
Manchester United have 13 wins, 4 draws, and 5 losses in the Premier League. Currently, they rank 3rd in the table just 2 points less than Manchester City which is 2nd. Marcus Rashford has bagged 11 goals while Christian Eriksen has 7 assists so far.
They finished 2nd in their group after Real Sociedad defeated them on their home ground. Manchester United will face Barca in the next game and it’s guaranteed to be a close encounter. It is never easy when you have the likes of Casemiro, Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes in the midfield providing passes to someone like Marcus Rashford who’s in the form of his life.
You will be able to get a deeper analysis of the clash from our match preview.
Best UEFA Cup/Europa League performance: Winners (2016/17)
Player to watch: Marcus Rashford
AS Roma (Italy)
Roma has found their touch again after Jose Mourinho took over the club in the summer of 2021. The former Europa Conference League winners can be a real threat in the tournament this season.
Roma is placed 4th in the Serie A table currently with 12 wins, 4 draws, and 5 losses. They are just 3 points behind Inter who are in 2nd. Their away form is better compared to the home form this season. Their star signing, Paulo Dybala has been superb for them so far with 7 goals and 6 assists.
Roma finished 2nd in the group stage behind Real Betis and will face Salzburg in the next round.
Barca experienced one of the worst nights of their history during the 2017/18 Champions League against Roma. They knocked us off the Quarter-finals beating us 3-0. It’s undeniable that it affected us a lot mentally for our recent downfall in the Champions League.
It would be sweet to take revenge from Roma and from the former Real Madrid manager. Personally, I believe it would do a lot for the team mentally as well if we can knock them off the tournament. Barca has the capability to do that as they play with incredible passion and hunger more than ever.
Best UEFA Cup/Europa League performance: Runners-up (1990/91)
Player to watch: Paulo Dybala
It would be unfair if we don’t consider ‘Europa League Kings’ as a favourite to go all the way. They have made history by winning the trophy 6 times. But, their league form has been one of the worst specially after their two center backs left the club. They are placed at 16th in La Liga this season with just 5 wins.
After finishing 3rd in the group stage of the Champions League, they qualified for the Europa League. Sevilla is a club with a big history in this tournament and it’s hard to write them off. They will take on PSV in the next round.
Xavi’s team won 3-0 against Sevilla during their recent meetup in Laliga.
Best UEFA Cup/Europa League performance: Winners (2005/06, 2006/07, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2019/20)
Player to watch: Yassine Bounou
Similar to Sevilla, Juventus are having a disappointing league run so far placing them 10th in Serie A. Considering their high profile, their win percentage is just 57% out of the 21 games played this season.
They qualified for the Europa League after registering just one win in the Champions League group-stage matches. Nevertheless, Juventus have got enough quality in their squad to put up a show on a big European night. They have won the tournament 3 times and have got big game players to do it again. Juventus will take on Nantes in the next round.
The most recent European clash between Barcelona and Juventus was in December 2020 where they humiliated us 3-0. A lot has changed for Barcelona since then and we will witness a mouth-watering battle if they meet.
Best UEFA Cup/Europa League performance: Winners (1976/77, 1989/90, 1992/93)
Player to watch : Dušan Vlahović
Union Berlin (Germany)
This season in Bundesliga, Union Berlin’s form is Excellent overall with 12 wins, 3 draws, and 4 losses. They are currently 2nd in Bundesliga with 39 points whereas Bayern Munich is 1st with just 40. Union Berlin is an unbeaten home with 7 wins, 2 draws, and 0 losses.
They finished their group as 2nd with 12 points and will face Ajax in the next round. Although Ajax has a better European history, they have struggled after ten Hag left the club.
Considering their league form specially in 2023, Union Berlin can be a dark horse in the tournament.
German clubs are known for their huge fan base atmosphere and we faced a bad experience with Eintracht Frankfurt last year at the Europa League. However, Barca has enough quality to defeat them if we play with a strong mentality.
Best UEFA Cup/Europa League performance: Knockout round play-offs (2022/23)
Player to watch: Sheraldo Becker
Feyenoord’s form has been impressive in their league as well with 12 wins, 7 draws, and 1 loss. They are currently placed 1st out of 18 teams in the Eredivisie Table. Feyenoord has been unbeaten in their home games as well with 6 wins, 4 draws, and 0 losses.
Feyenoord qualified for the Round of 16 after finishing first in their group. Considering their form in the league they have the ability to go deep in the tournament.
Best UEFA Cup/Europa League performance: Winners (1973/74, 2001/02)
Who do you think will be the Biggest Rival for FC Barcelona?
Comment Down Below 🙂