Football Features

Ranking this season’s major Europa League contenders from dark horses to favourites

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 16:15, 21 October 2020

The 2020/21 Europa League is almost ready to start, and we’re all set for another season of dramatic action.

Some incredible talent has been drawn into this year’s tournament including many teams that have the quality to play in the Champions League. There are some underdog squads, some you’d expect to win, and for once the Premier League has a very healthy representation in terms of the quality of the sides entered.

We’ve ranked the elite eight contenders as decided percentage odds from SBK, giving an overview on their prospects.

*Odds correct as of 16:00 on 21/10/2020. You have to be 18+ and GambleAware to sign up to SBK.

8. Villarreal

  • 2019/20 finish: n/a
  • SBK Europa League odds: 5.56%
  • Group stage opponents: Qarabag, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Sivasspor

The Yellow Submarine return to Europe again with a squad fully revitalised through some excellent transfer business this summer. The likes of Dani Parejo, Take Kubo and Pervis Estupinan add serious quality, and with perennial Europa League winner Unai Emery in charge, who could bet against them going all the way?

7. Leverkusen

  • 2019/20 finish: Quarter-finals
  • SBK Europa League odds: 5.88%
  • Group stage opponents: Slavia Prague, Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Nice

Leverkusen will be determined to prove that they are more than Kai Havertz FC, and the acquisition of Patrik Schik should help with that. Their group is winnable and with a squad full of young talent they could make a dent in the knockout stages as well.

6. Roma

  • 2019/20 finish: Round of 16
  • SBK Europa League odds: 5.88%
  • Group stage opponents: Young Boys, CFR Cluj, CSKA Sofia

Roma seem perpetually on the verge of a big squad revolution that they never seem to make. The return of Chris Smalling will be a big boon and former Barcelona wingers Pedro and Carles Perez bring a ton of European experience to the Giallorossi (and of course Henrikh Mkhitaryan won it in 2017 with Manchester United).

5. Leicester

  • 2019/20 finish: n/a
  • SBK Europa League odds: 6.67%
  • Group stage opponents: Braga, AEK Athens, Zorya Luhansk

Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City are back in Europe and, fitness providing, they could put together a serious run. They have the talent and the coaching to thrive in the European game, but their squad is very thin and they have some tricky away trips to contend with, so any injuries to their superstar starters could derail them heavily.

UCL betting odds

4. Napoli

  • 2019/20 finish: Round of 16 (Champions League)
  • SBK Europa League odds: 8.00%
  • Group stage opponents: Real Sociedad, AZ, Rijeka

Napoli are a ferocious team. Under Rino Gattuso they play fluid football with their dynamic attacking players. They made the biggest signing of the summer in Victor Osimhen and he is such a special talent that you wouldn’t put it past him having a Falcao-level season. They’ve drawn a very tough group which will include a couple of monster clashes with Real Sociedad, but with the likes of Osimhen, “Chucky” Lozano and Fabian Ruiz, watch out for I Partenopei!

3. Milan

  • 2019/20 finish: n/a
  • SBK Europa League odds: 10.20%
  • Group stage opponents: Celtic, Sparta Prague, Lille

AC Milan are fast re-emerging as a genuine force in Europe again and not before time. Two clashes against Celtic will recall the glory days of both sides over a decade ago, but this is a group from which you’d expect Milan to progress. The in-form Rafael Leao and the mighty Zlatan Ibrahimovic will lead from the front as the Rossoneri try to win the only European trophy they’ve never picked up.

2. Arsenal

  • 2019/20 finish: Round of 32
  • SBK Europa League odds: 13.51%
  • Group stage opponents: Rapid Wien, Molde, Dundalk

Arsenal have twice come close to picking up the Europa League recently, losing in a semi-final and final in the last three years. Now they’ll be looking to go one better in Mikel Arteta’s first full season in charge. The Spaniard has been working wonders with the Arsenal squad, and their young talent should be enough to get them through the group stages.

Then once they reach the knockouts, given that club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has “signed the ting,” they will have the firepower necessary to outgun pretty much anyone. Moreover Dani Ceballos and Thomas Partey is a Champions League calibre midfield, unleashing it on the Europa League stage is almost unfair. And in defence Kieran Tierney is a top-class left-back.

1. Spurs

  • 2019/20 finish: Round of 16 (Champions League)
  • SBK Europa League odds: 13.89%
  • Group stage opponents: Ludogorets, LASK, Antwerp

José Mourinho’s disdain for the Europa League is legendary. However he’s also a born winner. So when he was in the Europa League in 2017 with a world-class striker, he won it. Now he’s back in the Europa League in 2020 with another world-class striker, will he win it again? Alright Spurs can’t control games to save their lives but would you back against (a fit) Harry Kane and Heung-min Son in a crunch knockout tie? They are a genuinely explosive attacking partnership who will be so hard to contain.

If the draw hands it to us, a North London Derby in the Europa League final is a very real possibility.

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