Next Friday, Liverpool will learn their opponents for the first hurdle of their potential road to UEFA Europa League glory when the group stage draw is made.
At the moment, just half of the 32 teams involved are known, with the others to be finalised through the play-off rounds for various European competitions in the coming days.
As the club with the highest UEFA coefficient in the tournament, Jurgen Klopp’s side will be among the favourites to go all the way to Dublin next May and lift the trophy – as is likely to be reflected in odds from betting sites that don’t use gamestop – but several other clubs will also have eyes on celebrating at the Aviva Stadium in nine months’ time.
Who are some of the main contenders Liverpool may have to conquer in this season’s Europa League?
The first two winners of the Europa Conference League (West Ham and Roma) are both involved, with Jose Mourinho aiming to take the latter to a third European final in a row and win this tournament with a third club (Porto 2003, Manchester United 2017).
2021 winners Villarreal could also be among the favourites, having also faced the Reds in the Champions League semi-finals a year later, while Xabi Alonso‘s Bayer Leverkusen may fancy their chances at going one better than last season, when they were eclipsed by Roma in the last four.
Among the clubs who could (or will) be outside the top seeds, Rennes may be a danger, while Real Betis would love to emulate their local rivals Sevilla by winning this competition, having had to watch their not-so-dear neighbours hoist the trophy seven times in the past 17 years.
Brighton are making their first-ever foray into Europe this year, but given the rate of their ascent under Roberto De Zerbi, it’d be foolish to dismiss them as a possible dark horse.
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Among the teams who could enter the group stage in the coming days, Ajax will expect to go far, while 2022 runners-up Rangers might drop into the competition if they lose out to PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League play-offs.
Speaking of that tournament, don’t forget that eight teams will repechage into the Europa League for the knockout rounds in February. Among those could be a familiar winner in Sevilla, who owed their success in Budapest last season to dropping down from the Champions League group stage!
Klopp’s first campaign at Liverpool ended with them losing the Europa League final to the Andalucian outfit in Basel seven years ago. He’ll be desperate to add the one trophy missing from his Anfield collection in 2024.