Arsenal? Dortmund? Atletico? 4 possible Europa League winners

RealSport profiles the five teams most likely to win this season's Europa League title.

(Photo credit: davidhc)

The Europa League has gained credibility and importance in recent years due to the winners progressing directly into the Champions League. 

In addition, this season has seen something of a migration of the big teams down into the second tier of European competition with teams Napoli, Dortmund and Atletico Madrid all dropping down into the Europa League.

Add to this Arsenal and AC Milan, who played on Thursday, and this is one of the most exciting editions of the competition that we’ve seen in recent years. 

But who will win? Here are RealSport’s four potential winners.  

  1. 1 Atletico Madrid

    First up, the favourites. 

    Recent Europa League winners in 2010 and 2012, Diego Simeone's men are disciplined, well-organised and can pose a serious attacking threat with strikers Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann.

    Argentine manager Simone guided Atletico to two Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016 proving his Spanish side poses serious pedigree in European competition.

    Alongside Costa and Griezmann, Los Colchoneros have the 30-year-old French Europa League expert Kevin Gameiro who won the title three years in a row between 2013 and 2016. 

    Just 17 seconds into the second half of the 2016 final against Liverpool, Gameiro scored Sevilla's equalising goal, his eighth of that year's competition, Sevilla won the match 3–1. The Frenchman could prove vital in the later knockout rounds.

    Lokomotiv Moscow stand in Atlético's way. Although the Russian side shouldn't be underestimated, Koke & Co. have more than enough to beat the Russian's over two-legs and cement themselves as favourites to win the tournament outright.

    Going into the second leg with a 3-0 advantage after beating Lokomotiv at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday, Atletico will have concerns about their squad depth - a factor which will come into increasing significance as the competition rolls on.

  2. 2 Arsenal

    The Gunners have had a hard time recently, losing to Manchester City in the League Cup and Premier League, added to a string of terrible performances elsewhere in the league.

    Wenger needs to win this competition if his side are to have even a remote chance of getting a Champions League return. If they don't, he may end up losing more than just the chance of Champions League football, though.

    This Arsenal side does possess a lot of quality: if Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan turn up and play to their potential, who knows how far Wenger's men could go.

    Do they have the strength of character to beat the likes of Dortmund and Atlético? Doubts still remain. 

    However, if they can take the same performance that they put in at San Siro on Thursday - running our 2-0 winners - then they will quickly rise up in the bookmaker's odds.

  3. 3 Marseille

    It has been some time since Marseille progressed deep in European competition. In 2012, they found their way into the quarterfinals of the Champions League before being eliminated by Bayern Munich.

    The following season, they managed their highest league finish - second - for some time. However, since then, they have struggled to push on in Ligue 1 until this season. 

    Now, sitting in third place behind PSG and Monaco, they have also been able to translate their league form into the European competition, beating Athletic Club 3-1 in France on Thursday.

    With Dimitri Payet hitting form, there is a good chance that the team from the South of France could go deep in the tournament.

  4. 4 Borussia Dortmund

    Dortmund haven't challenged Bayern Munich for Bundesliga honours this season but a good run in Europe could provide the spark to ignite a dull season.

    Die Borussen have a host of decent players in their squad and the sky is the limit if everything clicks into place for them.

    Marco Reus is back and firing, World Cup winner Mario Gotze, Michy Batshuayi, Shinji Kagawa, Maxamillian Phillip, Andriy Yarmolenko and finally wonderkid Christian Pulisic are just a few of the names who make Dortmund potential Europa League winners.

    However, Peter Stöger's men will have to bounce back from a poor performance in the first leg against Red Bull Salzburg. They certainly have enough quality to do so but, on current form, it could be beyond them.

  5. 5 Red Bull Leipzig

    In fifth, a wild card and one of the most maligned teams in football.

    Leipzig could still finish the best of the rest behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and have enjoyed a fairly decent season so far.

    The Red Bull-owned club has a great deal of quality in their ranks. Clinical German forward Timo Werner has sixteen goals in all competitions with five in eight appearances in the Europe and Champions Leagues.

    Throw into the mix Jean-Kevin Augustin, Naby Keita and Marcel Sabitzer and Leipzig' could prove threatening to some of Europe's big hitters.

    Leipzig will have to first overcome a challenge from Russian side Zenit St Petersberg, who they beat 2-1 on Thursday evening. 

    Travelling to Russia is never and easy task. If they overcome it, they will be strong contenders going forward.

  1. Poll: Who will win the Europa League this season?

    1. Atletico Madrid
    2. Arsenal
    3. Borussia Dortmund
    4. Marseille
    5. RB Leipzig
    70 votes
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James Copley

Born and raised in Hendon, Sunderland - graduated with a BA in History from the University of Swansea, now back up north studying a Masters in Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland. Raised a Sunderland AFC fan and supporter of the Welsh national team due to Cardiff-born father and wider family.

Has written about Sunderland AFC and boxing for SBNation's Roker Report & Bad Left Hook respectively.

Twitter: @JamesCopley73