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After the end of the group stage phase of the UEFA Champions League, eight teams will play the Europa League's playoff round next February, entering the contention to win the trophy. Galatasaray, Lens, Braga, Benfica, Feyenoord, AC Milan, Young Boys and Shakhtar Donetsk are now in the competition as this is the last edition of the tournament that will see teams relegated from the UEFA Champions League playing in the knockout phase. Let's take a look at the current teams with the best chance of lifting the trophy in Dublin on May 22, also considering the new additions. 

8. Brighton and Hove Albion 

Roberto De Zerbi's side are one to watch for the final victory of the Europa League, purely because they play great football but also because of the talent. The Italian coach was able to create a great environment in the team since he took charge in September 2022 and it has improved a lot since he arrived. This season, also due to some injuries, they had a challenging start but they are fully in the race for a European spot again. Winning the Europa League is probably their best chance to have access in the next edition of the Champions League, considering the level of the competition of the Premier League this season. 

7. AS Roma 

The team coached by Jose Mourinho comes from two consecutive European finals and this can make a huge difference especially for the knockout stages. The Giallorossi, under the Portuguese coach, won the 2021-22 edition of the UEFA Conference League and lost to Sevilla the UEFA Europa League final last season. This experience can be a key factor for Mourinho's boys against squads with less confidence in these kind of games. Compared to last year, the Italian side signed a player like Romelu Lukaku who already scored 11 goals in 18 games so far in all competitions and can be crucial in the end. 

6. Galatasaray 

The Turkish side is a strong team that faced a tough Champions League group stage, ending up third behind Bayern Munich and Copenaghen, but ahead of Manchester United, one of the most disappointing teams of the season so far. Galatasaray can count on players with experience, such as striker Mauro Icardi or former Crystal Palace star Wilfred Zaha. Then, playing at their home stadium will be an incredible advantage in the knockout stages considering the atmosphere of their arena in Istanbul

5. Olympique Marseille 

Talking about stadiums that make the difference, the Velodrome is definitely another one where it's much more difficult to play when the home fans are pushing for their team. Olympique Marseille, after a difficult start, seem to be back on track now after coach Gennaro Gattuso took charge of the French side. They have talented players in their roster, but also quite a lot of experience. On top of that, as with other teams, winning the Europa League is probably their best chance to play Champions League soccer next season. 

4. Benfica 

The Portuguese side were one of the disappointments of the group stages since they were eliminated by both Real Sociedad and Inter, but especially because they only won one game, the last one against RB Salzburg that gave them the chance to play in the Europa League. Last season, the team coached by Roger Schmidt, were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League by Inter. Players with the experience of Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi, Joao Mario can make the difference in this competition and they are ones to watch. 

3. AC Milan 

Stefano Pioli's team ended up third in the group with Borussia Dortmund, PSG and Newcastle, and thanks to their win away at St.James Park, they will play Europa League soccer next February. The Rossoneri must be considered as one of the leading candidates to win this competition, with players like Rafael Leao and USMNT winger Christian Pulisic in the team. 'Puli' already scored six goals so far in all competitions this season and he's one of the key players of the Italian side. AC Milan won the UEFA Champions League seven times (only Real Madrid have won more) but never won the Europa League. 

2. Liverpool 

Talking about sides that know how to win, Liverpool have to be near the top as Jurgen Klopp's side is definitely one that will contend until the very end. Even if the Reds will likely focus more on the Premier League in the second part of the season after a great start (Liverpool are currently the leaders of the table), the experience and the quality of the players in the roster will make the difference. The English side has also improved its depth of the squad and can alternate players for both competitions.

1. Bayer Leverkusen 

The German side is by far the most impressive of the season on both domestic and international level. The club coached by Xabi Alonso continues to impress due to the quality of football expressed but also for the results. Leverkusen are unbeaten and won 19 out of 22 clashes so far in all competitions. Alonso's team scored 69 goals and only conceded 17 so far and are definitely one of the sides that can take home the crown. Last season, Leverkusen reached the semifinals only to lose against Jose Mourinho's AS Roma (1-0 aggregate), but this season they are the most impressive team in Europe and they can definitely aim to win the Europa League, regardless of what happens in Bundesliga.