As we await the Round of 32 of the 2016-17 Europa League, English clubs Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur stand as the favorites to take the cup. This is despite both teams having had a clumsy path leading up to this point.
United had a poor showing in the Group Stage which led to a second-place qualification behind Turkish side Fenerbahçe. Tottenham flamed out in the Champions League despite being in a relatively weak group, coming in behind Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen.
The justification for their odds is two-fold. First, both teams are performing well domestically; United may have had a rough start to the season, but they’re currently on a six-game winning streak in the Premier League and have been undefeated in their last eleven league games. Likewise, Tottenham are on a five-game win streak in the EPL and currently sit third after beating leaders Chelsea earlier this week. Second, they both, inarguably, have two of the strongest rosters in the field.
Below the English sides is traditional Italian powerhouse Roma. Domestically, they sit second, hot on the heels of league leaders Juventus. They had a nice run through the Group Stage, as well, going undefeated and qualifying first.
Next up is Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and Russians Zenit Saint Petersburg. Both finished first in their groups, with Donetsk being the only side to sweep the stage with a full six wins. Zenit breezed through the Group Stage with one loss.
Athletic Bilbao stands as Spain’s greatest hope this year with Europa League heroes Sevilla onto greener pastures in the Champions League. But Bilbao are having a pretty woeful season, both internationally and domestically. They finished second in their group to Belgian side Gent.
That pretty much wraps up the favorites for Europa. In my opinion, the bookmakers are overestimating the strength of the English sides and undervaluing the Spanish and German teams. United and Tottenham deserve to be favorites, but not by the margins they are given.
Odds to Win 2016-17 Europa League
Manchester United: 4/1
Tottenham Hotspur: 8/1
Shakhtar Donetsk: 13/1
Athletic Bilbao: 14/1
Schalke 04: 16/1
Best Value Bets to Qualify for the Round of 16
Borussia Mönchengladbach: 1/1
Hapoel Beer Sheva: 9/4
Borussia Mönchengladbach and Rostov were both victims of an unlucky Champions League draw. Mönchengladbach were stuck with Barcelona and Man City, while Rostov came up against Atlético Madrid and Bayern Munich. Despite being eliminated, both teams had a decent showing and will both have a much easier time in the Europa League.
Villarreal had a poor Group Stage performance and will now have to take on Roma in the Round of 32. But the Spanish side has shown through its La Liga season that they can pull their weight against the best.
Photo credit: “#33” by Johann Schwarz, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.