Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Liverpool, West Ham, Atalanta, Roma and Leverkusen are UEFA Europa League favorites so far after Matchday 2

The UEFA Europa League group stage is two games deep and some early favorites are already emerging with a handful of sides possessing 100% records over both rounds. Pre-tournament favorites Liverpool are unsurprisingly one of them with fellow Premier League representatives West Ham United also enjoying a good start on the continent along with Serie A pair Atalanta BC and AS Roma — last year’s beaten finalists. The Bundesliga’s Bayer Leverkusen have also started as they mean to go on under Xabi Alonso, having gone all the way to the semifinals last year. There have been some surprise performers too so we take a look at the main names so far.

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West Ham United, Group A

The Hammers have a 100% record so far thanks to their pair of wins over both Backa Topola and SC Freiburg which puts them in the driving seat ahead of the Germans who are second. Olympiacos, with just a point after two games, is something of a surprise in the group but West Ham were expected to top this pool and are doing so with relative ease for now. David Moyes’ men go to Greece next and could secure their passage with games to spare if they maintain this early pace.

Atalanta, Group D

The Italians were European darlings a few years ago when they went on a deep run in the UEFA Champions League and Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are making light work of a tough group which has seen them beat both Rakow Czestochowa and Sporting CP, who knocked Arsenal out in the round of 16 as part of a quarterfinal run. The Portuguese are level on points with Sturm Graz which makes the next round of games intriguing given that Atalanta go to Austria.

Liverpool, Group E

Jurgen Klopp’s men allowed it to be a bit tighter than many around Anfield would have wanted it to be, but got late goals in both halves against Union SG in to secure a second consecutive win. The Reds now sit top, ahead of Toulouse who remain unbeaten and the French side are up next for Klopp’s men. LASK Linz are already bottom and need to beat Union to move into third, which the Belgians will be hoping is the game which gives them lift off and a chance to challenge Toulouse for second spot behind Liverpool.

AS Roma and Slavia Prague, Group G

Both the Italians and the Czechs are running away with this one as both have six points from six ahead of their doubleheader next time out which starts in Rome. Slavia’s goal difference is greater with eight scored and none conceded, but Jose Mourinho’s men made it all the way to the final last year and look a good bet to go deep once more. One of these two could qualify at the other’s expense pretty soon while two draws would also set both up nicely to go through as the top two here. Servette will fancy securing third spot and a potential drop into the UEFA Europa Conference League.

Bayer Leverkusen and… Qarabag?, Group H

Also picking up where they left off in last year’s edition are the Germans who have seen off Scandinavian sides Hacken and Molde in fairly straightforward fashion. More surprising is the fact that Azerbaijani side Qarabag have been ruthlessly efficient with two wins from two and only two goals scored in 1-0 wins over both Hacken and Molde. The next games may well see Xabi Alonso’s men pull clear at the top of the group but Gurban Gurbanov’s side are already looking good to at least secure third if not second for continued European adventure.

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