The Europa League Round of 32 kicks off this week and there are some big names in the competition, as the major European leagues are each represented by one or more of their class acts.
After a long haul through the qualification and group stages, starting last July, we’re now at the stage where the Europa League 2020 results really mean something. The prize is a place in next season’s Champions League and that’s hugely valuable for some.
So let’s run the rule over the four favourites, look at their odds and work out what the Europa League means to them.
Inter Milan @ 7.00 to win the tournament
Antonio Conte’s team is in the middle of a three way battle for the Scudetto , but defeat to Lazio last week has left them three points off the top.
Conte has packed his team with Premier League experience, with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez up front, and brought in Ashley Young and Christian Eriksen during the winter break. The £17m signing of Eriksen made the biggest headlines but Young was on target during the defeat to Lazio, and his experience will be crucial in the run-in.
The Europa League 2020 betting odds have I Nerazzurri as favourites. They are sure to qualify for next season’s Champions League again, having ducked out of the group stage this time, so it’s all about silverware.
Sevilla @ 7.00 to win
Not so for Sevilla, serial winners of the Europa League as champions for three years on the trot between 2014 and 2016.
Head coach Julen Lopetegui is rebuilding his reputation after a disastrous spell at Real Madrid and he really needs to finish in the top four to make it a successful La Liga season. His side currently sits in fifth place, behind Atletico Madrid on goal difference, but only two points ahead of Villarreal and Valencia.
It’s going to be tight and Sevilla’s midfield powerhouse Ever Banega will be an important player on the big occasions.
Manchester United @ 8.00 to win
The 2017 Europa League winners are in a similar spot to Sevilla. They are in the top four race in the Premier League but they are coming from behind. While United’s billionaire neighbours, Manchester City, fight a UEFA ban, head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has stressed that his side cannot count on fifth place as a way of scraping into next season’s Champions League, and they currently sit in seventh, though a win over Chelsea this week dragged the Red Devils up into the mix.
We should give mention to their Premier League rivals, Arsenal, who are also at 8.00 to win the Europa League and have little or no chance of making the top four in England!
Ajax @ 10.00
After such an electrifying run in the 2019 Champions League, which took them to the semi-final, Ajax were quite fancied to go deep into the competition again. But they were the team to miss out this season in a three-way tussle in Group H with Valencia and Chelsea, who both finished a single point ahead of the Dutch champions.
Erik ten Hag’s team have landed a tricky Round of 32 draw against La Liga’s third-placed club Getafe. And if they come through that, take another look at the SBOTOP odds and you’ll likely see them join the outright favourites. They have quality running throughout the team and plenty of goals, with Hakim Ziyech and Donny van de Beek starring in midfield, behind Dusan Tadic and Quincy Promes upfront.
They are comfortably ahead in this season’s Eredevisie, six points in front of AZ Alkmaar and ten ahead of third placed Feyenoord.
So how did the big guns start?
Well, it was a bit of a mixed bag for the four giants tonight
Christian Eriksen scored a goal as Inter beat Ludogrets 0-2 and Lukaku added a late penalty to take a stranglehold on that tie.
Sevilla and Manchester United both came from behind to take a 1-1 drawback home. Anthony Martial scored Manchester United’s equaliser away to FC Brugges and Youssef En-Nesyri scored a late away goal for Sevilla to get a result away to CFR Cluj.
But Ajax had a tough start away to Getafe and lost 2-0, so they have the biggest task to turn that around in the second leg.
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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