The Champions League kicks in this week with some amazing matches but also the Europa League will sneak back into play as well on Thursday. The Europa League fits in one more round than the Champions League.
The Europa League was rebranded in 2009-10 and that is a good starting point for analysis as we have 8 tournaments. Since that time it has been won by Spanish teams 5 teams, English teams twice and 1 win for Porto (Portugal). Of the 32 semi-finalists 11 have gone from Spain, 6 from Portugal (none since 2013-14), 5 from England and 3 from Italy and just 1 from Germany with the rest shared out elsewhere.
In that time Spain has also dominated the Champions League so their record is especially impressive as it has been the second tier teams winning this tournament.
The current odds are Atletico Madrid (4.5), Arsenal (7), Napoli (12), Dortmund (12), Lazio (17) and AC Milan (19). No idea how they calculate these odds but AC are currently 7th in Serie A and not having a good season so it looks like reputation which is putting them so high in the odds. Napoli would be much shorter but they have a tough draw. Neither Italy or Germany have had a finalist in this tournament in the last 8 years and we’re happy to avoid them.
Atletico Madrid are short in the market but they are not big scorers and could easily have a couple of 0-0 draws and end up having a penalty shootout during the tournament. In the Spanish League they have managed just 34 goals in 23 games and their price is plenty short enough in such a long knockout tournament and this is not a vintage Atletico team.
As you look down the list there are some bigger prices for the Spanish teams such as Villarreal (26), Sociedad (34) and Bilbao (34). There is just one Portuguese team in this which is Sporting Lisbon and they are 34 and have a decent draw. Could it be that the standard of the French League has improved as Lyon were unlucky to not make it to the final last season and with PSG in the league everyone gets the chance to test themselves against the best. Marseille are priced 34 and Lyon are priced 26 and Marseille are above them in the French league and have a much easier draw.
Arsenal are the lone English representative but the feel of the club is not good and even with the new signings the anti-Wenger feeling creates too much of a toxic atmosphere.
We’re taking a few teams teams in this and first is Villarreal. They have a tough draw but they are having a much better season that either Bilbao or Sociedad. Marseille are a big enough price to be the pick of the French teams and hopefully have enough to beat Braga. There are some easy ties in this round and so the draw to the next round will present some teams with easy matches.
Sporting 34 (33/1) with Bet365 (1/2pt each way)
Marseille 34 (33/1) generally (1/2pt each way)
Villarreal 26 (25/1) generally (1/2pt each way)
Round of 32 bets
Ludogrets to qualify vs AC Milan 4 with Bet365 (1/2 pt)