Who are the favourites, contenders and outsiders for the Europa League?
We are almost at the point of February where the Europa League returns, with 32 teams eyeing up European success and that covered place in the Champions League next season, but how does the outright market look ahead of the resumption of the competition?
Five sides currently sit at a single figure price to win the tournament. Two of those are from the Premier League in Manchester United and Arsenal, but there are doubts over both. Injuries are hurting United while Arsenal is in transition. Sevilla has a wonderful previous record in this event but are in mixed form at present which may well make Inter Milan and Ajax more attractive.
Fans would be more confident on Inter if they weren’t in a battle for the Serie A title, leaving Ajax as the most likely team among the favourites to go deep in the competition. The Champions League semi-finalists last season have a vibrant young side and were finalists in this event three years ago.
Four other teams are shorter than 33/1 in the betting. Wolves are the first of those and they are giving the competition a good go but a small squad goes against them. Red Bull Salzburg were competitive in the Champions League group stages, but big losses in personnel in January counts them out, while Roma might have other things on their mind over the next couple of months. Bayer Leverkusen are of interest but question marks hang over their defence.
The Portuguese pair of Benfica and Porto are slotted in this section while La Liga side Getafe are interesting, as are Scottish champions Celtic, who have built up enough of an advantage domestically to give this a real good go. Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt and AZ Alkmaar shouldn’t be ruled out but way down the betting at 200/1, Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir can be found and that is appealing.
They have plenty of household names in their squad, not least Demba Ba, Robinho and Martin Skrtel, and topped a group that included Roma and Borussia Monchengladbach. Turkish football is going under the radar at the minute so that price is big.
This is a wide open betting heat, evidenced by the fact that it is 7/1 the field. A lot of the football predictions and market revolves around the English quartet but it may pay to look overseas and have most of your stake on Ajax to deliver a big run, while saving a few coins for Istanbul Basaksehir, who are huge at 200/1, and are capable of beating Sporting in the last 32 to make the next stage.