Europa League: Best Early Bets for the Knockout Stages
Europe’s second tier European tournament has whittled its numbers down to 32 but just because it plays second fiddle to its big brother the Champions League, it does not mean the action will be any less intense. Some heavyweight clubs across the continent are out to make a major impact.
So, who offers value as the tournament enters its latter stages and who may spring a surprise with no room for error as knockout club football reaches its peak?
Should you Back the Brits?
Three British sides made it into the last 32 draw.
Former Champions League and Europa League winners Chelsea, 1994 Cup Winners Cup Champions Arsenal and 1967 European Cup winners Celtic.
Chelsea face 23-time Swedish title winners Malmo in a contest they should comfortably ease through whilst Arsenal also look to have a smooth passage as they take on Belarusian heavyweights BATE Borisov, who finished runners-up to Chelsea in Group L.
Scottish champions Celtic made it through to the knockout stage by the skin off their teeth and have a late Rosenborg strike against RB Leipzig to thank.
Valencia is the task facing Brendan Rodgers’ men and it looks too tall an order as the gulf between the Scottish Premiership and La Liga is all clear for all to see.
That said, the Spaniards are having a torrid season in their home league and that gives the Hoops at least some hope but at 17.00 for the outright competition win there are smarter bets to make. Celtic at 5/2 to win the first leg over the struggling Los Che at Celtic Park could be a worthwhile bet.
Or go Italian?
Arguably the most impressive side left in the competition over the last 18 months is Napoli, who come in as third favourite for the tournament at 8.00.
That is a price to get on now as after dropping down from the Champions League the Naples club, coached by Carlo Ancelotti, are out to prove a point.
Group A runners-up FC Zurich are Napoli’s opponents in the last 32 in a contest that should be a straight forward affair for the Italians.
The Game to Watch
In a game worthy of being a European final, Lazio take on perennial Europa League winners Sevilla in a thrilling contest.
The Sevillistas have won the tournament five times since 2006 (a record) and are once again in the running and at 15.00 to win in Rome, look like being one of the best bets of the last 32.
Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt made the group stages look easy winning all six of their group games including the double over Lazio and Marseille.
Adi Hütter is working miracles at the Frankfurt club and a last 32 clash against Shakhtar Donetsk is not one to be feared.
Eintracht can be backed at 21.00 for the outright tournament win and that is one of the best long-shot bets out there in the Europa League.