The Europa League is the baby brother of the Champions League, but it can get very exciting. The former UEFA Cup saw some incredible teams win it over the years. We all remember the great Sevilla run, winning three in a row from 2014 until 2016. One team that looks to join the ranks of Europa League winners is Atalanta. Their meteoric rise in the last few years granted them a few European football adventures, including a run to the quarterfinals of the Champions League in 2020. Now, they are in the Europa League and they can definitely lift the trophy at the end of the campaign. Here are three reasons Atalanta will win the Europa League.
Reasons why Atalanta will win Europa League
Last season, Atalanta played in the round of 16 of the Champions League, ultimately losing to Real Madrid. After that season ended, Atalanta retained their entire squad basically, meaning that most of their roster has played against the Spanish giants last year. Now, that might not seem as relevant on the get-go, but experience is a very important thing. It is intangible, it cannot be easily measured, but it means a lot to the players on the field. Having played against such a European powerhouse relatively recently should do wonders for Atalanta as they face teams that are nowhere near the size and stature of Real Madrid.
One such team is RB Leipzig and while they have also had a ton of experience in European competitions, they have had much more roster turnover than Atalanta. It should be no problem for the Italian team to dispose of them and move further in this competition. Additionally, it is not only their run to the round of 16 last year that is a positive in terms of European experience. They also made it to the quarterfinals in 2020, and a lot of players from that team are still there. Obviously, two major omissions are Robin Gosens, who moved on to Inter in January, and Alejandro Gomez, who moved to Sevilla in 2021, but it is still a team beaming with experience.
Form in Europe
Now, form is a very temporary thing. There are many teams that have a great stretch of football and then disappear for the foreseeable future. Still, it is a relevant factor when we enter these stages of any competition, including the Europa League. In all honesty, the form of Atalanta, specifically in Europe, has been great. They were third in their Champions League group, but we have to understand the thin margins in question there. Two games in their group, a loss at Old Trafford and a draw versus Manchester United in Bergamo, were decided by some very late goals. If they got a win and a draw in those two games, they would advance in the Champions League, but luck really was not on their side.
As soon as they flipped over to the Europa League, Atalanta has been cruising. They easily beat Olympiacos 5-1 on aggregate, even winning by three goals away in Greece. After that came a tougher challenge, beating a Bayer Leverkusen team that is currently third in the Bundesliga. Yet, over two games, Atalanta won 4-2 and booked their ticket for the quarterfinals. RB Leipzig is by no means an easy opponent, as they have been playing well in Europe, but Atalanta has two very convincing wins behind them and some inspired performances in the Champions League behind them, even though bad luck and a possible lack of composure stopped them from winning them as well.
While both the Europa League and the Champions League are competitions won by teams, individual quality can be the turning point in certain regards. For instance, Liverpool went to the 2018 Champions League final and then won it in 2019 due to an incredible stretch of play by Mohamed Salah. In that regard, Atalanta is on par with the best teams in the Europa League. It all really starts with their star man this season, Mario Pasalic. The Croatian player is the club’s second-leading scorer with nine goals in 27 appearances from midfield, which is seriously impressive. He has stepped up when one of their leading strikers, Luis Muriel, bagged just six goals in 20 appearances so far.
There is also Duvan Zapata, whose goal tally does not look as impressive, but can still score whenever the team needs him to. Bagging 12 in 22 appearances is not as impressive as some other strikers around the continent, but it is more than good enough for the Europa League. Atalanta also has Ukrainian midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi, a great player to pair up with Pasalic in the middle, while veteran Josip Ilicic is also there. He is still plagued by some internal issues and cannot reach the level he had in 2020 when he had 21 goals for the season, but he is still a player that can show up in big games. There are other guys as well, such as Danish fullback Joakim Maehle and Swiss veteran Remo Freuler. There is a ton of quality in this Atalanta team and they should be able to use that to progress further in this year’s Europa League, all the way to the title.