The summer of European football really gets underway this week as the Europa League quarter-finals kick off.
After loose ends were tied with the last-16, fans can now look forward to the extravaganza brought to us from Germany, as all eight teams enter in an almost World Cup-like tournament. Single-legged fixtures and a final within the space of 11 days will create a lot of excitement as some of Europe’s biggest teams fight for the Europa League trophy and a confirmed spot in next season’s Champions League group stage.
Arguably the tie of the round will put Inter Milan up against Bayer Leverkusen, with Manchester United another former Champions League-winner involved against FC Copenhagen. The Europa League’s most successful club, Sevilla, take on Wolves and Shakhtar Donetsk will face FC Basel in the remaining tie.
The games are bound to concentrate mass attention on certain players, something those who play Football Index* might want to capitalise on in advance. Strong performances over the quarter-finals and beyond can see player values rise.
So we asked Craig Rennie to give his four Europa League players to invest in before buy prices start climbing up.
*You have to be 18+ and Gamble Aware to sign up to Football Index. Values correct at time of writing – 13:00 10/08/2020.
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- Head to the Football Index website using this link here and click ‘join now’.
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1. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Current Football Index value: £9.39 (Sell) – £10.21 (Buy)
Manchester United are currently favourites to win the Europa League this summer and finished the 2019/20 Premier League campaign strongly, taking good form into the tournament in Germany.
Bruno Fernandes was very much key to their third-place finish, and Craig believes they might not be fancied as much if it wasn’t for the Portuguese midfielder (as well as a favourable tie against FC Copenhagen).
“I very much doubt Man Utd would even be considered as contenders for European glory without Fernandes in their team,” explains Craig.
“He has made the squad gel and although he stands at a far more inflated price than first advised, there is still a bit of value to be had with him. He peaked at £11.57 following the season restart and is likely to be the player that will be most hyped in the media with United’s chase for the cup.”
As Man Utd‘s designated penalty taker, Fernandes is likely to get more chances to score than other teammates. He has also been directly involved in 18 of the Red Devils‘ 49 goals across all competitions since his arrival. Fernandes’ performances also sees the Portuguese midfielder often the talk of the media, another way traders can benefit from investing.
Craig added: “I fully expect him to pick up media dividends over the next few matches in the competition as well as performance dividends and a rise in capital appreciation.
“He is also a rock solid hold for the upcoming season and the Euros when they resume next year. Don’t be put off by his high price. He is the real deal and has plenty of growth left.”
2. Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla)
Current Football Index value: £1.21 (Sell) – £1.32 (Buy)
Another Sevilla star to potentially invest in, according to Craig, is Argentinian Lucas Ocampos. The 26-year-old made the headlines in July for his unique game against Eibar, in which he scored and made an injury-time save from the opposition goalkeeper having replaced the injured Tomas Vaclik in his own net.
The performance added to what has been a good season for Ocampos since his arrival at Sevilla from Marseille last summer, scoring 14 goals in La Liga (finishing as the club’s top scorer) while also adding three assists.
And he is being backed to take that form in to the Europa League, with Craig saying: “Another I like from Sevilla is Argentine attacking midfielder Lucas Ocampos, who could chip in with a few goals and assists in this tournament and seems a fair price at £1.32.”
3. Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
Current Football Index value: £1.79 (Sell) – £2.05 (Buy)
Moving onto arguably the most exciting tie of the round, which could throw up an eventual winner, both Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen boast a number of exciting players.
One that Craig believes could be worth capitalising on is Romelu Lukaku, who has had an excellent first season in Italy. After an unhappy final year with Manchester United, which had some questioning his ability, there were question marks as to how well Lukaku would fare in Serie A.
But the Belgian quickly proved his doubters wrong, finishing as the league’s third-highest scorer – the best of the rest behind Ciro Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo – on 23 goals. Lukaku is also on a remarkable goalscoring run in the Europa League that he will be looking to continue against Leverkusen.
Not since November 2014 has Lukaku failed to score in a Europa League game, finding the net in each of his last eight appearances in the competition. It is a joint-competition record shared with Alan Shearer. That run has seen the Belgian score 11 goals, including one in each of Inter’s three games so far this season.
4. Christian Eriksen (Inter Milan)
Current Football Index value: £1.61 (Sell) – £2.11 (Buy)
Another of Inter’s former Premier League stars, and the last of Craig’s four picks, is Christian Eriksen.
The Dane is Inter’s second-highest scorer in the Europa League this season, scoring two goals, and seems to be enjoying the European competition more than Serie A, where he only managed one goal in 17 appearances.
Last time out against Getafe, Eriksen had just eight minutes on the pitch to prove himself as a late substitute but did not let the opportunity go to waste, securing the 2-0 win within moments of coming on.
An impact like that could see Eriksen given a starting berth, or certainly more minutes against Bayer, and a similar performance may just see his value rise.