The 2012-13 Europa League is shaping up to be one of the most interesting since its inception, with many of the best European teams taking part in the competition.
Some of the major teams suffered poor seasons – or unfortunate Champions League final results in Tottenham’s case – and they have found themselves in Europe’s second best tournament.
The Europa League can also provide the bigger teams with an opportunity to play their younger stars against some difficult opposition and it can split the men from the boys. While the Europa League can sometimes seem like a waste of time it is still a European competition steeped in history that should be taken seriously.
With that in mind, here are five teams who have the best chance at winning the competition for their respective countries.
1. Atletico Madrid
The second team from the Spanish capital have won the Europa League in two of the last three years. Both Fulham and Athletic Bilbao have had to settle for second place and that is perhaps the strongest advantage that Diego Simeone’s team have over the other major challengers. The experience of holding the trophy shows they have the mental preparation and confidence to overcome any knock-out stage nerves.
The team they have put together is exceptional. Falcao is one of the best strikers in the world, Mario Suarez dictates the pace with ease, Arda Turan is one of the most creative wingers in La Liga and Cristian Rodriguez has impressed since his arrival. The Colombian attacker was the top scorer in the competition last season while Adrian was third. Thibaut Courtois has enjoyed a hugely successful period at Atletico following his loan move from Chelsea so they are solid both up front and in defence.
The Mattress Makers are unbeaten in La Liga this season, scoring an average of three goals per game and only conceding four. During the 2011-12 campaign they won 13 out of their 15 Europa League matches; which includes a perfect record in the knock-out stages.
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This article was first posted on September 22, 2012