While the UEFA Europa League doesn’t boast the glamour of the superior Champions League, it still possesses enough leverage to swoon participating teams attention. Of course, many “elite” European sides forced to participate thanks to poor league outings scoff at its low value.
However, everyone in the tournament discreetly wants to end up going all the way to win it thanks to the rewards it brings. Firstly, a guaranteed spot in the Champions League is at stake. It doesn’t matter if the winner finishes 10th in their domestic league: win the Europa and you’re in the UCL next campaign.
Moreover, it’s at least more prestigious than some (if not all) of the watered-down domestic cups in Europe. So, I think, we have some exciting prospects in hand for the Europa League starting next week. Led by Premier League powerhouses Arsenal and Manchester United, the competition should get stiffer as the months move on. There are some European debutantes (including Wolves) this time, but certain Spanish, as well as Italians giants, are bound to go all guns blazing to win the whole thing.
Here are who I see as the main contenders for the Europa League crown.
Also read: 2019-20 Europa League Title Odds
Manchester United (+400)
After failing to make the Champions League-cut, Manchester United must take the Europa League seriously this season. Considering that they won the tournament the last time they played in it (in 2017), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side should be seen as a favorite.
Now in the group stages, where they’ve been pit alongside relatively easy opponents, I expect OGS to play youngsters or those who don’t get enough game-time in the Premier League. Going against these grueling European sides will provide a great experience for Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes etc, also allowing Juan Mata, Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot to contribute more.
Once the real deal begins in the final eight, I think United will start playing their best hands. They should at least get to the semi-finals unless a freak hiccup or Solskjaer takes it lightly. Beyond that, if OGS can replicate his majestic tactics which resulted in THAT night in Paris, I think United could go all the way into winning it again.
Arsenal came up agonizingly close at winning their first-ever Europa League under Unai Emery, but with an empowered unit this time around, they’ll go harder for the title. Thanks to how competitive the Premier League top-four race is and their wobbly defending often dropping points, Emery might be compelled to turn up the heat for a sterner European charge.
With last season’s winner David Luiz now there with the winners-mentality, Arsenal should diminish the last-minute nerves this time. With a fiery trio of Aubameyang-Lacazette-Pepe, they have enough firepower in their arsenal (mind the pun) to destroy low-time opponents defences.
The always tinkering Emery has probably learned a lesson or two from the crushing loss to Chelsea in May as well. He’ll set up his team to be more clinical going forward but also to protect themselves against prime threats. The Gunners should dominate their way into the semi-finals at least for me. If they can vanquish their choking tendencies, I think a European trophy could finally arrive at the Emirates.
Best Of The Rest
The third Premier League side are Wolverhampton Wanderers (+2000) whom after getting promoted from the Championship, finished seventh last season to get their berth. However, if their early-season problems which have produced no wins in the first four games indicate anything, it’ll be difficult for them to survive in Europe. They’ve been pit in a tough group and although they just might scrape into the knockout stages, I don’t see them going beyond the round of 16.
Sevilla (+1400) are one to keep an eye out for, as they’ve won this competition five times in the past (including thrice in a row with Emery). With quality individuals like Jesus Navas, Chicharito, Nolito, Ever Banega, they have enough potential to come out firing in the Europa League. They’ve started the La Liga season unbeaten with two wins in three. For me, they could make the semi-finals and beyond knowing how well they fare as a strong unit.
Lazio (+2000) are another top side capable of dominating sides in Europa, as their attacking options are enough o cause unrest among weaker sides. Be it the Italian hitman Ciro Immobile, last season’s Serie A midfielder of the season Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, the creative Luis Alberto or former Liverpool man Lucas Leiva, they’re a well-layered unit capable of big surprises. Expect them to be running to go into the final eight.
Eintracht Frankfurt (+3000) remains the Bundesliga’s biggest hopes into the tournament, as I don’t think Borussia Monchengladbach (+2200) has enough staying power. Frankfurt have a pretty well-versed unit, but I don’t think they’ll be able to replicate last season’s heroics this time around.
However, AS Roma (+1700) are the dark horses for me. They’ve experienced a bittersweet start under experienced European campaigner Paulo Fonseca, but are packed with emphatic players. Youngsters Nicolo Zaniolo, Cengiz Under, Lorenzo Pellegrini bring that fiery attacking punch, while former Manchester City man Edin Dzeko’s still drilling in goals. Of course, New-signings Chris Smalling nor Henrikh Mkhitaryan are “world-class,” but their Europa winning experiences with Man United will, I think, help the Romans power through to potentially the very end.