Europa League Predictions 2013-14: Projecting Advancing Clubs from Each Group

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2013

While the Europa League is clearly on a second tier compared to the UEFA Champions League, there is still a lot of talent competing in this prestigious tournament.

Some of the best clubs in Europe have used this event to gain confidence with wins over quality competition and then built off the success in future years. This year, 48 teams will try to do the same with a strong effort in this year's Europa League.

The main part of the event features a group stage, with two clubs advancing to the knockout stage in each group. Before the action begins on Sept. 19, here is a look at which squads should advancing to the next round.

Group A (Kuban Krasnodar, St. Gallen, Swansea City, Valencia)

Despite Valencia's struggles to start the year in La Liga, this is still the most talented squad in the group. The only question will be if they can find someone to replace Roberto Soldado as a scoring option. 

Even without someone stepping up, the skill and experience in key spots should allow the club to win enough games to advance.

Meanwhile, Swansea City is clearly a team on the rise after their ninth-place finish in the EPL last year. Michu has the ability to carry the squad for long periods of time, and they can be a serious contender to win the entire championship.

Prediction: 1. Valencia, 2. Swansea City, 3. St. Gallen, 4. Kuban Krasnodar

Group B (Chornomorets, Dinamo Zagreb, Ludogorets Razgrad, PSV Eindhoven)

Dinamo Zagreb know what it takes to win after earning first in the Croatian league in each of the last eight years. They are often a contender in the Champions League, but a loss to Austria Vienna in the playoff ended that hope this season.

Still, the squad should be able to advance past a couple of mediocre opponents in the opening round.

However, PSV Eindhoven might provide the best competition to start the event. They have been one of the top teams in the Dutch Eredivisie this season and have enough balance to beat anyone they face.

This group will come down to these two squads, but neither should have trouble getting into the next stage.

Prediction: 1. PSV Eindhoven, 2. Dinamo Zagreb, 3. Chornomorets, 4. Ludogorets Razgrad

Group C (Esbjerg, Elfsborg, SV Salzburg, Standard Liege)

None of these teams stand out as top contenders for the overall title, but that does not mean one of them cannot make a run.

SV Salzburg might have the must impressive squad of the group, and it is currently dominating the Austrian Bundesliga. They are on top of the table with a goal differential of plus-17. 

Additionally, the Belgian squad Standard Liege has performed well of late and should be able to keep the momentum going in this continental tournament.

Prediction: 1. SV Salzburg, 2. Standard Liege, 3. Elfsborg, 4. Esbjerg

Group D (NK Maribor, FK Rubin Kazan, Wigan Athletic, Zulte-Waregem)

Although Wigan has struggled this season after being relegated from the Premier League last year, English squads tend to do well at this event due simply to the quality of competition they face on a regular basis.

That is unlikely to change with this club as it hopes to redeem itself with a strong showing.

Still, the defense of FK Rubin Kazan might be the best singular part of any squad in this group, and it will lead to a lot of success over the next few months.

Prediction: 1. FK Rubin Kazan, 2. Wigan Athletic, 3. NK Maribor, 4. Zulte-Waregem

Group E (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Fiorentina, Pacos de Ferreira, Padurii Targu-Jiu)

With Mario Gomez on the roster, Fiorentina instantly becomes one of the top teams in the Europa League. His attacking ability makes them formidable in Serie A, and he gives them a chance to win any game in this competition.

Pacos de Ferreira are off to a rough start in Portuguese Liga with four losses in four matches, but they are better than what they have shown so far. Last year's third-place team had a tough schedule to start, and this tournament will give them a chance to show how good they really are.

While the other squads have some talent, they will not be able to get enough points to advance.

Prediction: 1. Fiorentina, 2. Pacos de Ferreira, 3. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, 4. Padurii Targu-Jiu

Group F (Apoel Nicosia, Bordeaux, Eintracht Frankfurt, Maccabi Tel-Aviv)

The Israeli squad Maccabi Tel-Aviv narrowly lost to FC Basel in its run to the Champions League, but there is still a lot of talent that can make a surprising run in this event.

Despite this, Eintracht Frankfurt are clearly the best team in the group after finishing in sixth place in the German Bundesliga. They were only four points away from a top-four finish in one of the top leagues in the world and should have little trouble making a deep run in this tournament.

Prediction: 1. Eintracht Frankfurt, 2. Maccabi Tel-Aviv, 3. Bordeaux, 4. Apoel Nicosia

Group G (Dynamo Kiev, FC Thun, Racing Genk, Rapid Vienna)

Dynamo Kiev have had a relatively big drop after a strong run in the Champions League last season, but they are still capable of coming back with a good effort against these teams in group play.

Also, Racing Genk is another experienced squad that is coming off a strong effort last year in this championship. The Belgian squad reached the knockout stage last season and should at least be able to repeat this effort this time around.

Both FC Thun and Rapid Vienna can challenge for a spot in the next round, but they simply do not have enough skill to finish well in the group.

Prediction: 1. Dynamo Kiev, 2. Racing Genk, 3. Rapid Vienna, 4. FC Thun

Group H (Estoril, Liberec, SC Freiburg, Sevilla FC)

If the season ended today, Sevilla would be relegated from Spain's top division. Fortunately, there are a lot of matches still to be played, and this squad will find its way toward the top half of the table.

In that time, the squad should remain one of the better teams in this group and should be able to advance.

SC Freiburg is in the same situation in Germany's Bundesliga, and a turnaround should be expected along with a strong effort to contend in Group H.

Prediction: 1. Sevilla FC, 2. SC Freiburg, 3. Liberec, 4. Estoril

Group I (Guimaraes, Lyon, Real Betis, Rijeka)

Young Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette is off to a hot start in Ligue 1, and he should be able to continue this strong offensive play against the competition in this group.

Overall, the French squad is a regular contender in top competitions around Europe, and this group stage should be a way to get back to the top.

Meanwhile, Real Betis have fared well against tough competition this year with a win over Valencia and a narrow loss against Real Madrid. This should help when they face their opponents in this tournament and should do enough to advance.

Prediction: 1. Lyon, 2. Real Betis, 3. Rijeka, 4. Guimaraes

Group J (Apollon Limassol, Lazio, Legia Warsaw, Trabzonspur)

Legia Warsaw could not advance past Steaua Bucuresti in the Champions League playoff round, but this team is still worthy of facing the top competition around Europe.

They will get that chance by winning this group and making a deep run in the knockout stages.

Joining them will be Lazio, who are off to a mediocre start in Serie A but still have as much talent as anyone else in the competition. They should be able to earn second place to reach the next round.

Prediction: 1. Legia Warsaw, 2. Lazio, 3. Trabzonspur, 4. Apollon Limassol

Group K (Anzhi Makhachkala, Sheriff Tiraspol, Tottenham, Tromso)

Although Tottenham have lost Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, this is still one of the most talented squads in this entire competition. The Premier League club has made a number of huge additions, and the more they play together the better they will be.

Within a few months, Spurs should be a favorite to win the Europa League.

The only squad that will be able to compete with them in this group is Anzhi Makhachkala, but their recent sales have reduced the roster to the point that a second-place finish would be admirable.

Prediction: 1. Tottenham, 2. Anzhi Makhachkala, 3. Sheriff Tiraspol, 4. Tromso

Group L (AZ Alkmaar, Maccabi Haifa, PAOK Salonika, Shakhter Karagandy)

Former Iceland and current American national Aron Johansson has already made a big impact on AZ Alkmaar with four goals in four matches. This helps the squad have one of the top offenses in the group, which will lead to plenty of success.

The rest of the group might struggle to go far, but PAOK Salonika has the best chance to do well in the group stage. The Greek club is off to a strong start in league play this year and should be able to capture the second spot in Group L to advance.

Prediction: 1. AZ Alkmaar, 2. PAOK Salonika, 3. Shakhter Karagandy, 4. Maccabi Haifa

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