The Europa League may be considered Europe’s second major club football tournament, but year after year, the competition excites fans across the continent. Unlike the Champions League, the Europa League is far more wide-open and thanks to its unpredictability, the tournament can be a lot more fun to watch than the Champions League throughout the season.
Last year saw Manchester United win the competition while five-time champions Sevilla took the spoils the previous year. Of course, when the teams eliminated from the Champions League join the fray after Christmas, the entire tournament changes. But for now, who are the bookies’ favourites to lift the prestigious trophy?
AC Milan have spent more than €200 million on new players this summer, and so far, the club have navigated the tricky waters of Europa League qualification superbly. The team are also playing well in Serie A with two wins from two matches. New captain Leonardo Bonucci has brought a cool, calm presence to the club, while Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio and Andrea Conti have solidified the team’s backline. Milan have a huge roster right now, which can help it battle in both the Europa League and Serie A. The only real question is, do the Rossoneri have enough striking options to win the competition?
Odds To win: 7/1
A few weeks ago, Arsenal looked likely of being a top contender to win the tournament. However, after three weeks of Premier League matches, the team have failed to look like a potential champion. A lot will ride on whether or not Alexis Sanchez stays or goes; and who the team can bring in to replace him. Alexandre Lacazette looks like the real deal, but Arsenal’s midfield has been poor. A strong performance in the Europa League seems unlikely right now.
Odds To win: 8/1
Athletic have been in the Europa League for seven of the last nine seasons, and typically put up a strong fight. In 2011-12, Athletic were the beaten finalists, losing to Atletico Madrid. Spanish teams have won eight of the last 14 Europa League tournaments. The countries clubs just do well in the competition. Athletic will be very talented and last season’s top scorer Aritz Aduriz is back despite being 36-years old. The team didn’t make it out of the group stages last term, but Athletic have a winnable group with Hertha Berlin being their only real competition on paper.
Odds To win: 25/1
Everton have spent heavily to assemble a very good squad that can challenge for a Champions League place in the Premier League. Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen have all arrived this summer; and Everton have started the Premier League well. The Toffees biggest problem in the Europa League is the group of death the team were drawn in. Serie A’s Atalanta, France’s Lyon and Cypriot team Apollon Limassol will make it a very difficult task to qualify. Everton’s group E is the most difficult group in the competition.
Odds To win: 25/1
Villarreal should have no difficulty getting out of group A. The team have added striker Carlos Bacca, who should get plenty of goals this term. Like Athletic, Villarreal will have more of an opportunity to win the Europa League than Spain’s La Liga. Villarreal’s best performance in the Europa League was in 2015-16 when the team made it to the semifinals, a feat they did twice previously since 2000. Once the team get into the knockout round, their progression will depend on the luck of the draw.
Odds To win: 25/1
Odds quoted courtesy of bet365.