- Manchester United, Arsenal and Sevilla remain Europa League favorites following draw
- Big clubs, including Inter and Ajax, dropped down from the Champions League
- This season’s Europa League is wide open and loaded with strong teams
As expected, the round of 32 draw saw some movement in the Europa League odds. The arrival of clubs like Inter, Ajax and Salzburg may change the dynamic, but it hasn’t altered the position of the three favorites. Premier League duo Manchester United and Arsenal and Europa League kings Sevilla remain the three favorites after all landing favorable round of 32 draws – they each easily won their groups.
There are some brilliant ties set up for when the Europa League returns in February. It’s a competition that sometimes goes under the radar, but it provides plenty of great football and this year’s draw is wide open.
Europa League Odds
Odds taken Dec. 17.
Manchester United Too Short
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team face Club Brugge in the round of 32, a tie they’ll be overwhelming favorites for. Brugge are running away with the Jupiler Pro League, but the area of concern for United will be their defensive performances in the Champions League. Aside from a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of PSG, the Belgian club were resolute, and they were within minutes of a stunning victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.
This is a potential banana skin for United. Brugge, an organized defensive team, are the exact type of opponent that have troubled Solskjaer’s men this term. United need to have Paul Pogba fit and back to his best form to break down such a well-drilled defense. Without him, Brugge could snatch this tie on the break.
United would probably have had more chance of going through in the EL if we’d drawn Inter instead of Club Brugge. We’re an odd football team.
— Rich (@RichRedVoices) December 16, 2019
Into the last 16 and potentially beyond, United’s defense will be the key against stronger opponents. Their counter-attacking football is well-suited to European knockout matches, but it’s still a surprise to see them as favorites. Inter, Ajax and Sevilla would likely all be favorites if they met over two legs.
Turmoil at Arsenal
Mikel Arteta is set to replace caretaker Freddie Ljungberg as Arsenal manager. The Spaniard does not have any managerial experience – this appointment is the start of a project rather than a drastic turnaround. Arteta almost got the job when the Gunners hired Unai Emery, and he’s spent a lot of time alongside Pep Guardiola. At this moment in time, however, Arsenal are an unknown for the rest of this season.
With Mikel Arteta moving ever closer to being next Arsenal manager the one thing I’d say is this. If Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger think you’ve got the stuff to be a top manager I’d be inclined to listen.
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) December 16, 2019
The north London club have won just five of their 17 Premier League matches. Their Europa League campaign didn’t fill anyone with confidence. They remain favorites for their tie with Olympiacos, but there’s severe uncertainty. It is impossible to tell what Arteta’s Arsenal will look like in two months.
Arsenal’s odds of +700 to lift the trophy are not close to good value right now. Projecting their performance over the rest of the season is almost impossible, and the improvement required is significant if they are to seriously compete in the latter stages of the Europa League.
Sevilla to Prioritize La Liga?
Sevilla are third in La Liga, just four points ahead of eighth-placed Athletic Bilbao. The race for a Champions League berth will be fierce in the second half of the season. While Sevilla have prioritized the competition in the past, the lure of a top-four finish might change that in 2020.
— Fred Oumar KANOUTÉ (@FredericKanoute) December 16, 2019
A round of 32 clash with CFR Cluj should be dealt with, but a tougher tie in the last 16 could present a squad rotation challenge. The last 16 will be played on March 12th and March 19th – Sevilla face Atletico Madrid on the 8th and Real Betis on the 15th.
The attack remains a concern for the Andalusian side. Breaking down some of the better teams in the competition – even if they’re at full strength – will be an issue.
Watch Out for Inter
Failure to beat Barcelona on Matchday 6 saw Inter slip out of the Champions League. Antonio Conte’s side are neck-and-neck with Juventus atop Serie A, and sit just outside the top three in the latest Europa League betting. Like Sevilla, their chances of winning the tournament could depend on how seriously their manager takes it.
Conte has an underwhelming record in European competitions – something he will be desperate to change. The prospect of a first Scudetto for Inter since 2009-10 may outweigh that when it comes to squad rotation in the latter part of the season.
With 39 points from 16 Serie A matches, Inter are the most impressive side in this season’s Europa League. Ludogorets shouldn’t cause them too many problems. Their defense is solid and experienced, and in Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, they have two of Europe’s most in-form strikers.
They have favorable fixtures around the last 16 dates, making Conte’s squad management easier. After that, he will almost certainly name a full-strength side, and it’s hard to see anyone stopping Inter with the way they have been playing this season.
Pick: Inter (+750)
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