by Robert Johnson
Last season, Arsenal were looking like strong contenders for the Europa League. They drew the first leg of the semi-final against Athletico Madrid at the Emirates. However, their Europa League hopes were ended when Diego Costa scored the solo goal in the second leg of the semi-final. After beating Arsenal, Diego Simeone’s side had an easy job against Marseille in the final in order to lift their third Europa League title.
The Gunners are emerging as top favorites for this year’s competition as well. But the competition is going to be very tough with Chelsea, who failed to finish in the top four last season, in the contest. While the teams of Napoli and Inter Millan would also serve to make this year’s Europa League very interesting.
Despite winning the FA Cup title, Chelsea sacked Antonio Conte at the end of last season. They gave Maurizio Sarri a chance and so far the performance of the Italian is more than satisfactory.
His side defeated Liverpool at Anfield and later prevented the league leaders at Stamford Bridge from taking away the full points. But when they lost two quick matches against Wolves and Tottenham, everyone was expecting a good thrashing at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Instead, Sarri’s team became the first side to prove that City is not invincible after beating them 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Currently, they are making a strong case for the Champions League qualification next year.
Sarri will now be looking to add a title to his name after he failed to claim any at Napoli. Chelsea easily topped their group in the Europa League with five victories. At Stamford Bridge, they easily dominated PAOK, Bate, and Vidi by 4-0, 3-1 and 1-0 respectively. Without their best players, they suffered their only draw of the competition at Groupama Arena against Vidi.
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Unai Emery had a very difficult job on his hand when he succeeded Arsene Wenger who retired after being at the club for 22 years. However, the team has given a great start to the season under the new Spanish manager. They established a 22-match unbeaten run after losing their first two matches against Manchester City and Chelsea. That winning run came to an end when they were defeated by Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium.
The Gunners inflicted a humiliating defeat to their bitter rivals Tottenham when they came to the Emirates last month. Even Liverpool and Manchester United couldn’t claim the full points against Emery’s side. Liverpool drew 1-1 at the Emirates while United failed to win at Old Trafford.
Arsenal are very strong candidates for the Europa League now. With five victories and only a draw, they topped their group and proceeded to the next round of the competition. They narrowly lost the semi-final of the competition in the previous year, but now they have one more opportunity to win the competition this season.
It looks unlikely that anyone in Serie A is going to stop Juventus from claiming their eighth consecutive title. With Cristiano Ronaldo in the team, they seem like above the competition. Without comparing with Juventus, Napoli has been quite impressive in the Serie A. They are currently second in the league with the difference of five points with Inter Milan.
In the Champions League, Ancelotti’s team managed to beat Liverpool and Red Star Belgrade at San Paolo while drawing twice with PSG. However, the defeat at Anfield proved to be the end of their Champions League campaign. Now they will be aiming for the Europa League title.
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