11 Of The Biggest Underdogs For The New European Season
With the start of the 2017-18 European season only days away, we take a look at all three promoted clubs in Europe's top four divisions (EPL, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga).
This is not your typical new kid on the block in the Premier League. Most fans know the club and are familiar with their unmistakable black and white kit. Newcastle has spent 22 out of the 25 seasons the Premier League has existed in the top flight.
In terms of annual revenue, the team is the 17th highest producing club in the world - not too shabby for a club that just spent some time in the English Championship. The Magpies were relegated after a disastrous 2015-16 campaign but are back with a vengeance after winning the Championship title in May.
How they got here: 1st in the Championship (Automatic promotion)
Who to watch: CAM Ayoze Perez, CM Jonjo Shelvey, RB DeAndre Yedlin
Most people don't know that before the mid-20th century, Huddersfield Town were one of the most dominant teams in English football. From 1923-26, the Terriers became the first team in the English game to win three consecutive top flight titles. This season will be Huddersfield Town’s first in the Premier League, and it'll be their first time playing in the first division since 1972.
How they got here: 5th in Championship. Beat Reading 4-3 in a shootout in the Championship play-off final.
Who to watch: CM Aaron Mooy, ST Steve Mounie, CM Danny Williams
Brighton & Hove Albion
This team is a mouthful to say and might be more than a handful to deal with. The Seagulls have been known as a second or third tier side for pretty much their entire existence. In the 2015-16 campaign, it seemed the stars aligned for Brighton to finally earn promotion to the Premier League, however, they missed out on the golden ticket by virtue of goal difference.
They were dominant in the Championship this past year, and you should expect Brighton to dig their heels and stay in the top flight.
How they got here: 2nd in the Championship (Automatic promotion)
Who to watch: LW Anthony Knockaert, ST Glenn Murray, CM Steve Sidwell
The club from northeast Naples is shrouded in obscurity but one thing is certain - Benevento is so hot right now. This is a team that has spent decades and decades in the third tier of Italian football. Though they actually folded in 2005, they have risen from the ashes and crept their way up the Italian divisions.
Two seasons ago, they gained their first ever promotion to Serie B. This past year, they kept on flying and will play in their first-ever Serie A season. No team has ever been promoted to Serie A at their first attempt, but Benevento managed just that.
How they got here: 5th in Serie B, defeated Carpi 1-0 on aggregate in playoff
Who to watch: ST George Puscas (on loan from Inter Milan), MF Amato Ciciretti
If you’ve been perusing the news recently, you may have seen the club Hellas Verona pop out. This is not necessarily because of their promotion but because of their tumultuous and short-lived relationship with Italian icon Antonio Cassano. The World Cup winner signed with the club, then announced his retirement days later, then swiftly reversed the decision and then retired yet again.
Hellas Verona will simply try to stay afloat in Serie A. The Gialloblu earned their place after finishing second in Serie B, and if you believe in miracles, this is a side that's won the first division before, in 1985.
How they got here: 2nd in Serie B (automatic promotion)
Who to watch: ST Giampaolo Pazzini, RW Alessio Cerci
Societa Polisportiva Ars et Labor, but you can call them SPAL. It seems fitting that the club from the Renaissance city of Ferrara is experiencing a rebirth. After a 49-year absence, SPAL is back in the Serie A.
In a fashion similar to their newly promoted companion Benevento, SPAL experienced financial troubles and folded in 2005. Miraculously, they suffered a second bankruptcy in 2012, after which they began life in Serie D. They haven’t looked back since.
How they got here: 1st in Serie B (Automatic promotion)
Who to watch: ST Sergio Floccari, FW Mirco Antenucci
One of two familiar faces to reappear in La Liga for the 2017-18 season. In Spanish, Levante means “rising”, and that’s just what this club is doing.
Only six years ago, Levante had a historic season in La Liga, finding themselves at the top of the table in October (yes, like actually above Real Madrid and Barca) and eventually went on to qualify for the UEFA Europa league for the first-time ever. Nevermind just trying to stay in the league, the Valencia-based team could be a dark horse for the season.
How they got here: 1st in Segunda Division (Automatic promotion)
Who to watch: CM Jose Campana, LW Ruben Santos
This season will mark the loss of Girona FC’s La Liga virginity. It looked as if the Catalan side were going to make it to the big stage last season, but they were denied in heartbreaking fashion by a last-minute goal by Lugo on the very last day of the season.
They made no mistake in this pasty year's campaign, however. Girona will be soaking it all in this year and hopefully focusing on picking up points where they can. A Catalan derby between Barcelona and Girona might be a fun albeit unequal one to watch.
How they got here: 2nd in Segunda Divison (Automatic promotion)
Who to watch: AM Borja Garcia, ST Cristhian Stuani, GK Gorka Iraizoz
Another relatively-seasoned La Liga vet. Getafe participated in the top level of Spanish soccer for twelve years between 2004 and 2016. Getafe recognize that sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can emerge even stronger, and perhaps this will be the start of another long stay in La Liga.
How they got here: 3rd in Segunda Division, defeated Tenerife 3-2 in the playoff final.
Who to watch: DM Medhi Lacen, CB Djene Dakonam, ST Chuli
Similiar to Newcastle, Stuttgart is not your average newly promoted team. The side from southwest Germany has five Bundesliga titles (most recently from 10 years ago), three German Cups and five UEFA Champions League appearances to their name.
The past decade has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the club, and they are chugging their way back up the track after relegation two seasons ago. They’ll be entering the top tier in fine form after finishing first in the 2. Bundesliga this past spring. Much of their recent success is due to fresh-faced manager Hannes Wolf who is just 36 years old.
How they got here: 1st in 2. Bundesliga (Automatic promotion)
Who to watch: FW Julian Green, LB Emiliano Insua, CB Timo Baumgartl
Hannover 96 will also be making a return to the Bundesliga after relegation two years ago. Die Roten had enjoyed mediocre success for many years in the top flight, notching mid-table finishes for several campaigns.
As recently as 2011, the club finished in a record-setting fourth place, qualifying for Europe for the first time in nearly two decades. The good times have run dry in recent years, but it appears that Hannover have the tools and experience necessary to stay above the dreaded bottom three this year.
How they got here: 2nd in 2. Bundesliga (Automatic promotion)
Who to watch: CB Miiko Albornoz, CM Manuel Schmiedebach, ST Martin Harnik