Clubs from England and Spain have dominated the Europa League in recent years. Wins for Manchester United in 2017 and Chelsea in 2019 are neatly sandwiched between triumphs for Atletico Madrid in 2018 and Sevilla, most recently in 2020.
And the pattern is set to continue this year with the winner almost certain to come from the EPL, according to one of the most popular online gambling sites in the US, 888sport USA. But how do the contenders shape up?
Man. United (+350)
Outright favorites Man. United are strongly fancied to put the disappointment of losing at the semi-final stage last year behind them. And having fallen off the pace in the EPL this season, winning the Europa League represents one of two potential opportunities remaining for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to dispel the doubters and win his first major piece of silverware in the Old Trafford hot seat.
Whether he will or not will depend a lot on keeping talisman Bruno Fernandes fit and his team overcoming a mental block that led to three semi-final defeats in three separate competitions last season. But if the first leg demolition of Real Sociedad is anything to go by United mean business this time around and are well worthy of their favorites tag.
Of course, the manager responsible for Man. United’s win in 2017, Jose Mourinho, has a real pedigree in this competition having won it with Porto too. A hat trick of wins with three separate clubs would surely brush aside claims that Mourinho’s style of football isn’t cut out for the modern-day and also re-affirm his status as a managerial great.
However since the Portuguese momentarily guided Spurs to the Premier League summit earlier on in the campaign, Tottenham have tumbled down the table and out of top-four contention. Now, ninth and stranded in mid-table, Mourinho’ has admitted his side’s best chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League is to win the Europa League, which, considering Spurs haven’t won a major trophy since 2008, is easier said than done.
Mikel Arteta could do wrong early into his tenure as Arsenal boss. But despite bagging an FA Cup, his side has struggled for the most part this year and have a job on their hands just to finish inside the Premier League top 10! Arsenal, however, have saved their best performances for the Europa League.
The Gunners breezed the group stage, winning all six group games, and claimed a vital away goal in their finely poised Last 16 tie with Benfica. It would certainly be a turn up for this young and very inconsistent side to claim a second major trophy in as many years. But Arteta’s Arsenal are beginning to show signs of recovery once more and have already shown they can win silverware.
Leicester City (+1700)
As the entire football world witnessed in 2015, Leicester relish the tag of underdogs. Even now, The Foxes are more than happy to go about their business quietly and let their performances on the pitch do the talking, as they’ve been doing all season under Brendan Rodgers – Leicester currently sit joint second and have been an ever-present in the Premier League top three.
With a lack of real squad depth, however, it may soon be time for Rodgers to decide whether he wants to secure Champions League football through a top 4 finish in the league, or, by going all-out to win the Europa League. Only time will tell but as this is a team going places. Another major trophy to add to their 2015 triumph wouldn’t be a total shock.
(odds correct as of 22/02)