After six weeks of thrilling Thursday night action, the 2020/21 Europa League Group Stage concluded on November 10, and with 3.09 goals scored per game, Europe’s secondary club competition became a primary source of excitement during the tournament’s opening phase.
An a hugely eventful Matchday 6 across the continent, 12 clubs established themselves as group winners, with a further 12 joining the section’s best teams in the hat for the Last 32 draw scheduled to take place on December 14th.
To add further spice to proceedings, eight teams, including Manchester United and Ajax, will join the competition in it’s first knockout teams following their elimination from the Champions League.
Below, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the favourites, main contenders and dark horses to look out for in this season’s Europa League’s knockout phase.
Best bookmaker for Europa League outright odds
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Europa League winner odds
- Tottenham Hotspur – 11/2
- Manchester United – 6/1
- Arsenal – 7/1
- AC Milan – 10/1
- Leicester City – 12/1
- Napoli – 14/1
- Ajax – 14/1
- Bayer Leverkusen – 16/1
- Villarreal – 18/1
- Roma – 20/1
- Benfica – 20/1
- Real Sociedad – 25/1
- RB Salzburg – 25/1
Odds – 11/2
Current Premier League leaders Tottenham Hotspur are the bookmakers’ favourites to go all the way in the Europa League this season, and it’s easy to see why.
Spurs looked comfortably a class above their opponents in Group J, despite using star players like Harry Kane and Son Heung-min sparingly, and with two-time tournament winner Jose Mourinho in the dugout, Tottenham have a manager who knows what it takes to land silverware.
There is a danger that Tottenham could take their eyes off the European prize if they are still involved in a domestic title race next year, however, Spurs’ squad looks well equipped to push for honours on multiple fronts, making them worthy Europa League favourites.
Manchester United were immediately installed as the second favourites to win the Europa League following their demotion from the Champions League, though the Red Devils’ inconsistency under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes them a difficult prospect to assess.
United outplayed and beat two strong teams in PSG and RB Leipzig in the early exchanges of their Champions League group, before capitulating against the same sides on Matchday five and six, and the Manchester giants will have to leave their abstruse nature behind to have a real go at winning the Europa League.
Solskjaer’s charges were beaten semi finalists in last season’s UEL iteration, when United were unlucky losers against Sevilla, despite racking up 20 attempts to their opponent’s nine. However, it’s United’s inability to be clinical on the biggest occasions that probably makes them worth avoiding in the Europa League outright betting.
Arsenal complete a hattrick of English favourites to win the Europa League this season, though the Gunners’ current dismal domestic form makes their relatively short odds a little unappealing.
Mikel Arteta deployed a mixture of fringe and young players in a Group B campaign that Arsenal utterly dominated against a lacklustre field of opponents, and the Gunners were the only team in 12 Europa League groups to finish with a perfect 100% winning record.
Arteta unexpected success with Arsenal in last season’s FA Cup could be something for the Gunners to draw confidence from, though the landscape has shifted considerably since then, and the Londoners’ performances against tough opponents in the Premier League this season indicate they could struggle when the going gets tough in the latter rounds of the Europa League.
Italian behemoths AC Milan have tons of continental pedigree, however, the Rossoneri’s glory days disappeared around the same time as curtain hairstyles, Britpop and Gameboys.
Milan have been enjoying something of a resurgence under current boss Stefano Pioli however, and at the time of writing they have suffered just one defeat in 19 competitive fixtures in 2020/21.
Legendary Swedish striker is the focal point of what is otherwise an exciting, youthful looking Milan team, and the Italians could ruffle a few feathers in the latter rounds of the Europa League.
Dark horses: Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen have been proving that there is life after Kai Havertz this season, and Die Werkself have been performing impressively at home and abroad since their wonderkid swapped Germany for Chelsea and the Premier league.
Bayer lost their opening UEL Group C match to Slavia Prague, though the Bundesliga outfit found their feet quickly to win their remaining five games in the section. Leverkusen battered home 21 goals in the process – a haul that made them the highest scoring side in the competition’s group phase.
In their homeland, Peter Bosz’s team are motoring along nicely in second spot after 10 games, just a single point behind leaders and defending champions Bayern Munich, and with a lengthening list of emerging talents to choose from, Leverkusen can improve even further.
Bayer were knocked out at the quarter final stage of last season’s Europa League, though some of their mesmerising displays this term hint that they could go one better in 2020/21.