Following on from the mid-week start of the Champions League comes the return of Europa League football on Thursday nights. If you’re not a Manchester United or Arsenal fan it’s a great time to watch the likes compete for the ‘Champions League 2nd Division’, but if not, it's a chance to add another trophy to the cabinet! We preview which teams have a shot at winning the trophy from the current draw and from the 3rd-place-getters in the UCL, along with some long shots who could go deep.
Manchester United 6
United’s start to their Premier League season couldn’t have gone much worse, going down to Crystal Palace at home and drawing with both Wolves and Southampton. Despite these results, they head into the tournament as favourites. The good news is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has plenty of time before the finals to get his team right. It would take a serious catastrophe for United to not make it out of the group stage but they are facing several annoying away trips to Astana (Kazakhstan) and Partizan Belgrade (Serbia). There is absolutely no value in their current outright price at the moment.
Considering the demise of Man Utd, it’s a shock that Arsenal head into the tournament as second favourites. The Gunners have enjoyed a decent start to their campaign with wins over Newcastle and Burnley, along with a draw to Spurs, to which, for the most part, they dominated proceedings. Alike with the Red Devils, Arsenal should get better throughout the season as Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos become more familiar with the team, along with the return of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding, and the arrival of Kieran Tierney. At odds of 8, Arsenal present some value for bettors as they also have the ability to stand up to the teams who drop down from Champions League.
With five Europa League titles to their name since 2006, Sevilla are the most successful club in the history of the tournament. They should be able to waltz through the group stage as they come up against Qarabag, Dudelange and APOEL. They’ve also enjoyed a strong start to their La Liga campaign, sitting in 3rd place with two wins and a draw. As we know, Sevilla are capable of anything once the tournament hits the finals, but with a new coach and eleven new signings in their squad, they’re unlikely to earn a sixth Europa trophy.
The Dangers Coming From the UCL
Barcelona, Inter or Dortmund
Group F from the UCL, a.k.a. The Group of Death, presents some serious danger to the sides above. One would think that either Inter or Dortmund will drop down and not only will both teams have a serious chance of taking out the title, but they could earn favouritism status.
RB Leipzig, Zenit, Benfica or Lyon
Although these names aren’t as big as the ones from Group F, they can potentially do some damage to the likes of Man Utd and Arsenal. Especially Leipzig and Lyon, who have the experience of playing big clubs in Germany and France on the regular.
Ajax, Valencia or Chelsea
The last of the dangers from the UCL draw come from Group H. We all know what Ajax can do after their UCL heroics last season and Valencia can shock anyone with the likes of Kevin Gameiro and Daniel Parejo in their holster. Chelsea’s youngsters are a chance too, but come finals time, their young squad could be faltering due to their daunting schedule.
Possible Long Shots
Wolves 17 and Rennes 101
Everyone loves a long-shot fairytale and if it happens this season, it could come from either Wolves or Rennes. Last season, Wolves beat all of the big six in England at some point and wouldn’t they love to do it again, but in Europe! They’ve built a very talented squad since their re-introduction to the Premier League but an increased schedule could spell their demise. There’s a bit of value in Rennes also, not only did they nearly topple Arsenal last year with a 3-1 win in Leg 1 of the Round of 16, but they currently sit 2nd in the Ligue 1 after claiming three wins to start their campaign.
Below is the draw for the Group Stage.
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