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Can Anyone Compete with Barcelona for the Europa League?

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Can Anyone Compete with Barcelona for the Europa League?

After an ignominious exit from the UEFA Champions League in December after a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich, Barcelona found themselves resigned to competing in Europe’s second-tier competition, the Europa League.

At the time, it was a sorry state of affairs for one of the continent’s most iconic clubs – a squad that seemed disinterested and incapable of winning, a manager that the squad were not responding to, and there seemed to be no way for the situation to be sorted out.

But with the recent appointment of club legend Xavi as manager, the Blaugrana have seen an upturn in form, finding themselves on course for a top-three finish in La Liga and they could even finish the season with silverware, with a favourable Europa League quarter-final tie against Eintracht Frankfurt to come soon.

On paper, Barcelona are the strongest team left in the competition, and have been tipped by many to go on and win the tournament, potentially capping a season that started so badly with a trophy.

Going into the business end of the season, Xavi’s side are in seriously impressive form, with eight wins in their last 10 games in all competitions, including a 4-0 El Clasico demolition of Real Madrid.

With the additions of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Dani Alves, Ferran Torres, and Adama Traore in January, the club have a talented squad that could go all the way and make sure the season is one to remember for their fans.

La Liga side Villarreal won this tournament for the first time in their history last year – could another Spanish club win it this year? The odds of the Catalan club going all the way in the tournament are currently 13/8. But they could face some tough tests en route to the final, with some good sides who are capable of winning still left in this competition. Here, we take a look at those teams.

2021/22 Europa League Outright Winner Odds

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Barcelona @ 13/8

RB Leipzig

Bundesliga side RB Leipzig will face Italian side Atalanta in their quarter-final fixture, in what is sure to be a great game of football between two sides that have many talented players.

Thursday’s clash between the two sides promises goals due to the attacking talent on show, but with it being a quarter-final, expect it to be a cagey affair that may take some time to get going.

Leipzig certainly will be confident, with their squad being the fourth-highest scoring in the Bundesliga with 61 goals this season, and have only conceded 31 goals, making them the joint-second best defence in their domestic league.

Attacking midfielder Christopher Nkunku has 16 goals and 11 assists in his 28 Bundesliga appearances this season, averaging 0.63 goals per 90. The club’s Portuguese striker Andre Silva has 10 goals and two assists in 28 Bundesliga appearances, but there possess a lot more players capable of creating chances and scoring goals.

A mainstay of the side Emil Forsberg is always dangerous, and Spaniard Dani Olmo is capable of creating from the wing. Dane Yussuf Poulsen is another goalscoring threat, and Hungarian Dominik Szoboszlai is a danger from central areas and set-pieces. Fellow Hungarian Peter Gulacsi is a reliable presence in between the sticks, behind competent defenders in Willi Orban, Angelino and Nordi Mukiele.

In their two games in this competition so far against Real Sociedad, the German side scored five goals over the two legs. Their round-of-16 tie against Spartak Moscow was cancelled and the Germans were given a free pass into the quarter-finals after the Russian club was expelled from the competition, but this was a fixture the German outfit would likely have won.

With no European silverware in their short existence, could they finally break their duck? The odds of RB Leipzig winning the competition are at 3/1.

2021/22 Europa League Outright Winner Odds

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RB Leipzig @ 3/1

Olympique Lyon

French side Lyon will take on Premier League high-flyers West Ham in their quarter-final fixture, a game that again, will be full of quality due to the talented players both sides possess.

Lyon will come into the game with an air of confidence, as in their ranks they have the current top scorer of this competition in Cameroonian Karl Toko-Ekambi, with six goals to his name. He has also laid on two assists in his eight appearances, and this will give the Lyon faithful some hope of making it through to the semi-finals.

With their academy producing another potential superstar in Rayan Cherki, the 18-year-old is one to watch and could pop up with a moment of magic for his side. The club is stacked in midfield, with the talented Brazilian Lucas Paqueta and Houssem Aouar both fantastic playmakers.

On-loan Tanguy Ndombele has impressed since his return to the club he left in 2019. Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Maxence Caqueret are also pivotal in midfield. With veteran Portuguese Anthony Lopes still in goal and with the addition of Jerome Boateng to the backline, the French side have a solid team with some good players.

They have a good record in this competition this season, finishing top of Group A with five wins, one draw and no losses, averaging 2.25 goals a game. However, their great record in this tournament has not carried over to their domestic league form, with Les Gones currently languishing ninth place in Ligue 1.

Winning this competition would be only the second European trophy that the Ligue 1 side will have won in their history, with their only success on the continent coming in the form of the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1997. They have previously made it as far as the semi-finals in the Champions League in 2010, and a decade later in 2020. They also made the semi-finals of the Europa League in 2017, and the semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1964.

A win in this competition would make sure that this Lyon squad would go down in history at the club, and the odds of Lyon winning the competition are at 14/1.

2021/22 Europa League Outright Winner Odds

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Olympique Lyon @ 14/1

West Ham United

Surprise package West Ham take on French side Lyon in the quarter-finals, with fans of the Irons eagerly awaiting the clash.

It has been a great couple of years to be a West Ham fan, with the club currently in sixth place in the Premier League with seven games left to play. They managed to finish sixth in the Premier League in 2021 and as a result, qualified for the Europa League.

On their Europa League journey this season, they have made it to the quarter-finals, giving their fans some great memories, including wins over Dinamo Zagreb and knocking out 2020 competition winners Sevilla.

The Irons managed to top Group H with 13 points and qualified straight to the round-of-16, with four wins, one draw and 1 one defeat. West Ham have scored 13 goals in this tournament and have only conceded four, averaging less than one goal conceded a game.

But after facing relatively weak opposition so far, they are now competing with bigger teams. Can their squad go all the way?

The impressive Jarrod Bowen is having the season of his life, bagging nine goals and laying on eight assists in 29 league appearances this season, with striker Michail Antonio also scoring a respectable eight and assisting seven times in his 30 league outings.

Andriy Yarmolenko is another option West Ham can call upon out wide, with Pablo Fornals and Manuel Lanzini the midfield creators who can pop up with the occasional goal.

In midfield, Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek continue to impress, whilst Mark Noble is also performing to a high standard in his last season as a Hammer. Full-back Aaron Cresswell is also a dangerous outlet, getting three assists in six Europa League outings this season.

As a side with no real pedigree in European football, winning this competition would be a great deal for the club and its fans. Their previous success in Europe comes in the form of a Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, the same competition that the club would finish as runners-up in 11 years later in 1976. They have also won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999. The odds of West Ham winning the competition are at 6/1.

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West Ham United @ 6/1