Spurs among the favourites for Europa League success

Among all the excitement surrounding the Champions League, Europe’s other competition has again flown under the radar.

Partly because it’s quite hard to understand when the competition proper kicks off – is it with the latest preliminary round in August or today with the group stages rather than when the third-placed teams in the Champions League groups enter the competition early next year? – and partly because most of the clubs involved are, well, rather poor.

The arrival of the eight third-placed clubs in the Champions League groups in January makes the Europa League extremely complicated to predict, as does many clubs’ tendency to consider the competition like some sort of distant relative’s wedding – interesting for the first five minutes, but oppressively boring afterwards.

However, Europe’s second competition still contains a lot of excitement talent and we’ve tried our best to pick out the five favourites to succeed Chelsea – unless Jose Mourinho’s men muster an untimely exit from the Champions League and find themselves in Europe’s second tier again.

TOTTENHAM

Spurs might have lost Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, but the squad at Andre Villas-Boas disposal is richer in options than the 2012-13 version and the arrivals of Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado have added considerable European experience to an already talented squad.

Having won the trophy with Porto in 2011, Villas Boas knows all about the perils and pitfalls of the Europa League and is likely to give some his squad players a chance, particularly in the group stages.

Group K, containing Anzhi Makhachkala, Sheriff Tiraspol and Tromso, should pose no major threat to Spurs, particularly considering that the Anzhi have had to sell many of their overpaid stars to balance the books.

Eriksen's creativity unlocked Norwich's defence. Can he repeat himself in Europe?

SEVILLA

The 2006 and 2007 winners lost Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas and their campaign didn’t get off to the most promising of starts as the Andalusians picked up a meagre two points from their first four matches in La Liga.

Despite losing the aforementioned pair to Manchester City, Sevilla splashed £6.6m on PSG’s Kevin Gameiro and the 26-year-old has hit the ground running for his new club, netting three times in his first five appearances in all competitions.

Marko Marin arrived on loan from Chelsea and his impressed so far, while retaining highly-rated Geoffrey Kondogbia could prove to be a masterstroke and Sevilla should top Group H, which also includes SC Freiburg, Liberec and Estoril, quite comfortably.

FIORENTINA

Gomez is out injured but Fiorentina still have plenty of talent in their ranks

Having achieved their highest Serie A finish since the 2008-09 season, Fiorentina lost Adam Ljiaic to Roma and Stevan Jovetic to Manchester City in the summer, but welcomed prolific striker Mario Gomez who swapped European champions Bayern for La Viola.

Gomez’ knee injury will rule him out for at least two months but Vincenzo Montella’s team should have more than enough to negotiate their way through the group stages even without the German.

Italy international Giuseppe Rossi is back up-front after a troublesome 18 months and Fiorentina have plenty of talent in their ranks to top a relatively easy Group E given that neither Pacos de Ferreira nor Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk should cause the Italians too many troubles and the two fixtures against Padurii Targu-Jiu look like a six-pointer.

PSV EINDHOVEN

The Europa League is known for throwing the odd surprise and who better to cause an upset that a young Dutch side packed with talent?

PSV might not have lifted the Eredivisie title since the 2007-08 season, an eternity for a such a successful club, but the conveyor belt that produced the likes of Ruud Gullit, Arjen Robben, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and, ehm, Mark Van Bommel continues to produce talents.

The pick of the crop is undoubtedly Holland’s Georginio Wijnaldum. The attacking midfielder has started the season on fire netting four times in the first six league games and he’ll be pivotal to PSV’s chances of emerging from a group containing Dinamo Zagreb, Chornomorets and Ludogorets Razgrad.

OLYMPIQUE LYON

Lacazette has been in great form so far for Lyon

The days when Lyon used to dominate French football are long gone and Champions League nights are nothing but a distant memory at the Stade Gerland.

Lyon, however, still boast enough talent to cause any other team in the Europa League trouble and should be able to qualify from a rather tricky Group I, which includes Real Betis,  Rijeka and Vitoria Guimaraes.

Yoann Gourcuff contributed two goals and two assists in his first four league games this season, but the former AC Milan midfielder remains a mystery, while Alexandre Lacazette has started the season in great form.

The 22-year-old has scored three times in Lyon’s first five league games this season and he’s likely to attract interest from other European clubs.

Can Spurs go all the way in the Europa League this season? Leave your comments below or get in touch via our Twitter or Facebook account, don’t be afraid to have your say. 

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