Pandora Hughes brings us all the latest on the Europa League Futures betting markets for the 2021/22 campaign.
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The Europa League has been through many changes and remains overshadowed by the Champions League but it has a distinctive attraction for many soccer bettors and provides a unique challenge, bringing together lesser teams on the upgrade and big-name clubs who have missed out on the bigger prize. And for many teams, it remains the most realistic chance of European silverware.
Who Do Bettors Favor for the 2021/22 Europa League?
The Europa League betting market is usually one of the most fluid and dynamic of all European soccer tournaments, and this year is no exception. None of the leading contenders is available at less than double figures. Leicester City and West Ham United from the Premier League are prominent after excellent 2020/21 campaigns, but bettors are also showing some support for Italian sides Napoli and Lazio, along with Bayer Leverkusen and leading Spanish hope Real Sociedad.
What to Look for in a Europa League Winner?
The Europa League is often billed as the chance for clubs from lower profile domestic leagues to taste European glory and pick up a piece of silverware, and while that is true in theory, in practice, the competition has increasingly been dominated by the big leagues.
Since the old UEFA Cup reverted to the current format for the 2004/05 season there has been a notable trend towards dominance by La Liga and the Premier League. The first seven years of the tournament produced winners from Spain, Portugal, Ukraine and Russia, but since the 2011/12 season, the competition has been won only by Spanish or English clubs.
La Liga has been particularly dominant, thanks largely to the success of Sevilla, who have won this four times in the last decade. Atletico Madrid have also won this competition twice, while last year Villarreal added their name to the list of winners. Chelsea (twice) and Manchester United have flown the flag for English teams. These two nations have likely dominated for different reasons. The Spanish football style seems particularly well suited to European competitions, while the Premier League has at least five big-name clubs with large squads to call upon.
The other important factor to look out for is the influx of Champions League teams that occurs after the initial Group phase. Over the last 13 seasons, aside dropping down from the Champions League has won the Europa League five times.
Can an English Team win the Europa League this season?
As we saw above, it is English teams that have provided the main challenge to the dominance of the Spanish clubs in this competition over the last decade, and it is not surprising to see two English sides in the top three of the betting, but I think there are reasons to oppose both of them.
The two recent English winners, Manchester United and Chelsea, both have Champions League pedigrees and huge squads, as well as considerable European experience. By contrast, Leicester and West Ham are much smaller clubs, with fewer resources and are led by managers who have no track record of successfully guiding a team to European glory.
In addition, while both will welcome the prestige and adventure of European competition, particularly in the case of West Ham, both are firmly focused on Premier League success, and do not have the squad depth to prioritize both tournaments equally.
What About the Spanish Challengers?
Real Sociedad are the most prominent of the Spanish challengers and they fit the profile of potential winners. They have reached the Round of 32 on each of their last two Europa League appearances and last season came through a tough Group before going out to eventual finalists Manchester United. Imanol Alguacil has guided them to 6th and 5th in La Liga in two full seasons and this improving side looks an excellent wager at their current odds.
Real Betis are another club on the up in Spain, and under the vastly experienced Manuel Pellegrino, they finished sixth in La Liga last season. Still, their recent European record is patchy and they need to demonstrate that they can back up their fine efforts of last season before we can rely on them.
Which Other Teams can Challenge for Europa League Glory?
Bayer Leverkusen are fourth in the betting with most sportsbooks, after their early-season heroics in the Bundesliga last time around, but there are too many question marks over their squad, and they have a relatively tough Group to negotiate. Lyon will be less effective without Memphis Depay, so the best alternatives are the two Italian contenders: Napoli and Lazio.
Napoli enjoyed a fine season in 2020/21 and had looked like Champions League contenders for most of the campaign. New manager Luciano Spalletti is experienced and has an array of talent to call upon, including the club’s record signing, forward Victor Osimhen. They look a stronger wager than either of the English clubs at the top of the market.
Lazio could also offer value in this market. They appear to have recruited wisely and in Maurizio Sarri, have a manager with extensive Europa League experience, having guided Chelsea to the title in 2019. His coaching credentials are strong and Lazio look set to go deep in this competition.