Ones To Watch: Europa League Hottest Properties
Europa League 2014/2015
Looking down the list of tonight’s Europa League fixtures, you’d be probably be forgiven for not getting overly excited but the clubs involved wont share your apathy.
For the first time in a long time the much-maligned competition finally has true meaning: the winner gains entry to next season’s Champions League – the holy grail of European football.
Teams involved are going to be falling over themselves to progress and that should mean highly competitive, thrilling games the whole way through it with managers looking to play their best players most of the time. We decided to put together a list of players you should keep an eye out for during this season’s group stages:
Raffael – Borussia Monchengladbach
The impressive Borussia Monchengladbach have excelled in the Bundesliga over the last 18 months or so with one of the main reasons being the stellar form of former Hertha Berlin player, Raffael.
The Brazilian-born forward plays in an advanced number 10 role just off the main striker in a 4-4-1-1 and is a regular contributor to Monchengladbach’s goal tallies whether making them or creating them with some deadly finishing and imaginative playmaking.
Mateo Kovačić – Inter Milan
The 20 year-old Mateo Kovačić was signed from Dinamo Zagreb and heralded as one of the brightest young talents in European football by his then coach, Andrea Stramaccioni. A promising start to his Inter career hit the buffers as a combination of injuries and managerial upheaval at the Milan giants saw him side-lined.
New coach Walter Mazzarri has seen enough in the young starlet to stick by him, though, with the midfielder setting about repaying his faith in him. The Nerazzurri have started in imperious fashion with Kovačić central to that form. A hat trick against Icelandic side Stjarnan in the previous round and a goal with two assists in last weekend’s 7-0 rout of Sassuolo has set the benchmark ahead what could be a fantastic season for both himself and Inter.
Memphis Depay – PSV
After a number of lean seasons, Dutch giants PSV are riding the wave of a prodigious academy. Topping the table in the early stages of the Eredivisie, the Eindhoven-based side are blowing away all before them with a superlative brand of counter-attacking football – Memphis Depay being its poster boy.
The young winger, one of the Oranje’s World Cup stars in Brazil, has tremendous pace and technique and already, at just 20, has 22 goals in 39 appearances for Philipe Cocu’s team. Linked with Manchester United over the summer, a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs beckons.
Divock Origi – Liverpool/Lille
An injury to Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke and some early mediocre performances from Romelu Lukaku meant Lille’s Divock Origi got unexpectedly shunted into the glare of the media spotlight in Brazil. He didn’t shrivel, though; he shone.
Full of pace, power and technique, the young striker bore the burden of Belgium’s striking worries and did so with aplomb. Liverpool quickly came sniffing, snapping him up and then loaning him back to Lille for further development. Already bagging a further two goals in four appearances this season, the big forward is expected to shine again in this season’s Europa League.
Watchers of Italy’s Serie A won’t have been massively surprised as the wing wonder has been tearing defenders new ones for a couple of years now. A winger in the real sense of the word, his style most resembles that of a young Ryan Giggs – fearsome pace, direct running and very tricky, Cuadrado is a nightmare for opposing sides.
The Florence club are expected to go far in this season’s competition and if they do, Cuadrado will be the main man to keep an eye on.