A number of exciting clashes will be on display to look forward to in this year.
The UEFA Europa League returns to action on September 15, 2021. 32 teams representing 20 different nations across Europe will compete in the group stages of the Europa League this season. The final will be played at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, home to Spanish club Sevilla, on May 18, 2022.
The UEFA Europa League is often considered the understudy to the more swanky and prestigious UEFA Champions League. But it has entertained some big teams and provided great action over the years. It also offers a chance to lesser-known clubs to win a European trophy that adds to their history.
The 2021-22 Europa League season has some great teams and captivating clashes to look forward to. Here are five teams on whom you should keep eyes during the group stages of the competition.
In case you didn’t know, Rangers are the second-most successful club in the world, having won a staggering 116 trophies. Rangers won their 55th league title going undefeated in the league last season. Their resurgence to the top of Scottish football is sensational, considering they were playing in the fourth-tier of Scottish football in 2012-13.
The Scottish club are part of Group A along with Lyon, Sparta Prague and Danish club Brondby FC. Therefore, Rangers will be favourites to qualify from their group. Considering their domestic form, it is expected that Rangers will improve on their Round of 16 finish last season. They will look to replicate their performance in the 2008 UEFA Cup (now Europa League), where they reached the final.
4. Real Sociedad
The La Liga outfit are set to make their 12th appearance in the Europa League. The Basque club boast great talent in players like Alexander Isak, Mikel Merino and Mikel Oyarzabal. This is complemented well with experienced players like David Silva and Asier Illarramendi.
Imanuel Alguacil’s men are placed in a tricky Group B with AS Monaco, PSV Eindhoven and Austrian side Sturm Graz. But with their talent and quality, the 2019-20 Copa del Rey winners will look to improve on their Round of 32 finish last season. Sociedad’s best finish in the Europa League came in the 1988-89 season when they reached the quarterfinals of the competition.
The Serie A outfit are entering into their 19th season in the Europa League. The Rome-based side have made it to the knockout stages of the competition nine times. Their best finish in the competition came in 1997-98 when they lost to domestic rivals Inter Milan in the final.
This season, they face tough opposition in Group E alongside Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille and Turkish giants Galatasaray. But considering they have players of the quality of Ciro Immobile, Luis Alberto, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and others, Lazio will be favourites to not only qualify from the group but also compete for the title. They are also led this season by Maurizio Sarri. The tactician has prior experience of winning the Europa League with Chelsea in the 2018-19 season.
The 1988-89 Europa League champions are in Group C with Leicester City, Spartak Moscow and Legia Warszawa. Their clash with Leicester City will be one of the games to watch out for this season.
The club narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification last season. They endured a frustrating 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona to finish at fifth place and qualified for the UEFA Europa League group stages.
They are without doubt one of the favourites for the title. Having missed out on Champions League qualification last season, Napoli will look to the UEFA Europa League as a chance to flex their European muscle and also add silverware to their trophy cabinet.
1. Leicester City
The Foxes are participating in the third UEFA Europa League campaign of their history. They are with Napoli in Group C and should be able to easily qualify along with the Naples club. Their loss to Slavia Prague in last season’s UEFA Europa League Round of 32 was disappointing. It was Leicester’s best-ever finish in the UEL but the club will be looking to advance further into the competition.
Brendan Rodgers’ men have the perfect set of resources across the park to mount a challenge for the trophy. The club will see this competition as a golden chance to add more silverware to their trophy cabinet, having added the Community Shield in August and the FA Cup last season.