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EUROPA LEAGUE

Who are Barcelona's main rivals in the Europa League?

The Catalan side must overcome Serie A's Napoli in the UEFA Europa League knockout round in their quest to lift the title in the Seville final in May.

Update:
Soccer Football - LaLiga - Osasuna v FC Barcelona - El Sadar Stadium, Pamplona, Spain - December 12, 2021 FC Barcelona's Nico Gonzalez celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Vincent West
VINCENT WESTREUTERS

Barcelona's elimination in the Champions League following defeat to Bayern Munich was a bitter pill for the Catalan side as they saw how Benfica progressed to the Round of 16 in the Champions League with the men from Camp Nou forced to settle for European football in the Europa League.

The last time Barcelona failed to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League was in the 2000/01 season. The Catalan side finished third in their group behind AC Milan and Leeds United. It was a low point for the club and one which current boss Xavi will remember. The former midfielder was part of Llorenç Serra Ferrer's squad that season and featured in the last three group stage games. The last time that the Primera club were unable to qualify for the Champions League group stage was in 2003 as they finished in sixth-placed in LaLiga.

Europa League debut

This is Barça's first time competing in the competition since it was rebranded from the Uefa Cup to Europa League in 2009 and should Xavi Hernandez's men overcome Serie A side Napoli, the Catalan side have the prospect of facing some stern opposition in their quest to lift the trophy in Seville's Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in May, 2022.

Europa League favorites

Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

The Bundesliga side were the other surprise Champions League elimination as they failed to progress from Group C with the German side ousted by Sporting CP and unbeaten Ajax. Second currently in the Bundesliga and with the goal-scoring prowess of Erling Haaland, the men from Signal Iduna Park will be expected to go all the way and initially need to overcome Glasgow Rangers in the knockout round.

West Ham United (England)

The 'Hammers' are back in Europe after their short-lived spell in the 2016-17 Europa League when they were sent packing by unfancied Romanian outfit Astra Guirgiu in the early play-off round. This time, under the guidance of David Moyes, the side from East London are a different proposition topping their group in the 2021-22 Europa League and currently sitting in fourth place in the Premier League.

Sevilla (Spain)

The side from Andalusia are the Europa League 'kings' having won the competition on six occasions and will have their appetites whetted by the possibility of playing the final at their very own stadium in May. Julen Lopetegui's men were expected to advance from their Champions League group having assembled one of their strongest squads in some time and will be fancied to progress to the latter stages of this season's Europa League.

Atalanta (Italy)

Gasperini's side were stunned last week as the fell to Villarreal in their delayed final UCL group game and must settle for a run in the Europa League. One of the surprise pacakages in European football over the past few seasons, in Colombian Duvan Zapata and Croatian Mario Pasilic, they possess two of the most formidable striking pairs on the continent.

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