The Europa League is back!
Well OK, technically it’s been back for a few days but that was just wrapping up the second-legs of the round of 16, tying off the loose ends left by the dramatic cessation of football activities brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now the quarter-final line-up is set and we have our elite eight all drawn together. With a rejigged format involving single-legged ties to be played every few days, this promises to be an intense 11-day sprint to the final in Cologne.
But who are the favourites? Every side has qualities, so we’ve looked at all eight contenders and ranked them by the percentage odds on them winning the competition, according to SBK*. Who ranks where? Read on and find out!
*Percentage odds correct as of 09:10 on 7/8/2020.
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Goals Scored: 12
Percentage bets to win: 1.43%
Copenhagen are developing a reputation as second-leg specialists. After an unimpressive group stages they have twice had poor first-leg results only to rebound and pick up big second-leg wins. They’ve been inconsistent since football’s restart, however, so even though they turned things around against Istanbul (including an incredible goal from Rasmus Falk) it’s hard to see them getting anything against an in-form Manchester United.
Goals Scored: 20
Percentage bets to win: 2.94%
Basel have been intensely dominant in the Europa League, sweeping all before them. However with the exception of Getafe, they’ve not faced any truly good sides. They rode their first-leg win to get by a sizzling Frankfurt and now face a winnable quarter-final against Shakhtar. Their potential semi-final would see them face Inter or Leverkusen, however, and it’s hard to see them leaping that particular hurdle.
6. Shakhtar Donetsk
Goals Scored: 10
Percentage bets to win: 6.45%
Shakhtar dropped into the Europa League after struggling in their Champions League group, drawing half their games. Coming into the Europa League they did well, including an impressive second-half comeback against Benfica in Portugal. You’d back them to give Basel a good game, but after that they’d face a daunting semi-final against either Inter or Leverkusen. Keep an eye on them, especially sharpshooter Junior Moraes, but maybe don’t expect miracles.
Goals Scored: 19
Percentage bets to win: 11.36%
Wolves have been playing in the 2019/20 Europa League for more than a year now. This forever campaign is now of the utmost importance as Wolves failed to secure Champions League through their league place and Arsenal’s FA Cup win has stolen their Europa League spot, too. They need this, and after edging by Olympiakos they now face a dramatic test against five-times winners Sevilla. Nuno’s men are a dogged and difficult side to beat, but they have struggled against top-level sides and Sevilla are a very much a top-level side.
4. Bayer Leverkusen
Goals Scored: 9
Percentage bets to win: 13.16%
Leverkusen only just showed up in the Europa League but they already look too good for it. This may well be Kai Havertz’s last ride in the red and black if transfer rumours are anything to believe and he’d want to make it a good one. After seeing off Rangers the German side now face Inter in the blockbuster tie of the round, and if they could make it by the Italians you’d fancy them to make the final, but the Inter tie is a genuine 50-50, with so much quality around it could go either way.
Goals Scored: 17
Percentage bets to win: 14.71%
Sevilla are such a superb outfit under Julen Lopetegui, and bring with them the experience of winning five Europa Leagues this century. They can struggle to score goals but are so good in terms of play between the boxes that they have to be taken seriously. The way they devastated Roma was an enormous statement of intent. And with Wolves in the quarters and potentially Manchester United in the semis, Sevilla could continue their grand tradition as Premier League killers in 2019/20.
2. Inter Milan
Goals Scored: 6
Percentage bets to win: 20.83%
Antonio Conte has never excelled at cup competitions. His amazing Juventus side were notoriously bad in the Champions League, and he managed to throw away qualification to the knockout rounds in the same competition this season with Inter. However what we now have is a Champions League-level squad in the Europa League.
It’s very hard to imagine that Inter won’t just steamroller everyone in front of them. Getafe gave Inter everything they had and the Nerazzurri absorbed it all and still powered to a win. The attacking options presented by Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez alone should be too much for everyone until a potential showdown with Lukaku and Sánchez’s old club in the final.
1. Manchester United
Goals Scored: 23
Percentage bets to win: 33.56%
“We’ve been to two semi-finals this season in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup and we want to go one further and win something,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, allaying any fears that with United would take it easy given they are already in next season’s Champion’s League.
United have been sensational since Bruno Fernandes signed for them, winning 15 out of 22 games across all competitions and losing just once. They executed a massive 18-point swing on Leicester City to finish third in the Premier League and they’ve conceded just three goals all Europa League long despite never using their first-team. Their three forwards have all scored at least 20 goals and they may be about to sign footballing wonderkid Jadon Sancho.
United are a team to be feared, and although some may worry that another tricky semi-final could be their undoing, the sheer amount of quality in their side, the consistency of their form and the relatively small size of the revamped competition should see them dominate this three game sprint and power their way to a second Europa League in four seasons.
“I hope the players need to win, like I do.”