Fan Article by RealMilanista.
The influx of Middle Eastern money into European football has seen several luminaries of European football fall by the wayside in the past decade.
PSG and Manchester City are now battling it out for European success whilst footballing giants such as Milan, Arsenal and Celtic battle it out in Europe’s secondary competition, The Europa League. In this article we take a look at the Rossoneri’s chances of claiming their first European success since 2007.
The Group Stage
Milan have been drawn alongside Olympiacos, Real Betis and Dudelange of Luxembourg. Realistically, Gennaro Gattuso’s men should be aiming to win their group, and do so with ease. 12 points must be the minimum aim from the fixtures against Olympiacos and Dudelange, with 3 points at home to Betis being expected.
The summer acquisition of Gonzalo Higuaín has added real firepower to Milan and will provide them with a cutting edge that they lacked in the biggest games last season. Good performances from the Argentine forward will be key to Milan’s success in Group B.
The knock-out stage
Traditionally, the Europa League is the toughest European competition to predict as the third-placed teams from the Champions League join the Europa League in the knock-out stages. Forgetting those potential teams for the moment, Milan’s biggest rivals from the main draw will be Arsenal and Chelsea. The odds on live betting reflect this, Milan are 13/1 to win the tournament. Just behind the two English clubs and any team that is knocked out of the Champions League.
The Gunners are now under the stewardship of serial Europa League winner Unai Emery, and the Spanish coach will be eager to bookend his first season in charge with a European trophy. Chelsea also under new management, are always canny operators in European competitions and with Eden Hazard, can beat anyone on their day.
Then come Sevilla, a team who have won the tournament five times in the past twelve seasons and performed well in last season’s Champions League. All of those teams could prove to be stern opposition for Milan, but the Rossoneri could feasibly beat any of those sides over a two-legged tie. The true test will come from the Champions League…
Champions League third-placed teams
Europe’s senior competition has been criticised for boring group stages in the past, with the big teams almost guaranteed qualification to the knock-out stages. However, this year the draw has thrown up some mouth-watering clashes, meaning the calibre of third-placed teams dropping into the Europa League will be higher than ever.
Inter, Napoli, Schalke, Ajax, Hoffenheim, CSKA Moscow and Valencia look likely to be joining the Europa League at time of writing. However, Spurs, Man United, Benfica and Atletico Madrid could all feasibly finish third in their Champions League groups and the Rossoneri would have much to fear from those potential opponents.
It’s almost foolhardy to predict the eventual winners of the Europa League in the present moment, as a winner from the Champions League group stages looks like the most likely outcome. Out of the teams currently in the Europa League, Milan look as strong as any of the contenders, with the possible exception of Chelsea.