It may be considered the Champions League’s rather less illustrious cousin, but the Europa League still offers a golden opportunity to its participants to enjoy a back door route into the continent’s premier competition for the following season.
So there’s plenty at stake in this week’s final round of group games, and particularly so for those with ambitions of getting their hands on the trophy. The teams that finished third in their Champions League group are seeded for the last 32 of this tournament, and the group winners are also given a seeding. Those who finish second are left at the mercy of the draw-master, who this year could pair them with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, CSKA Moscow and maybe even Napoli or Borussia Dortmund.
So yes, that should concentrate the minds of all involved this week.
These kinds of situation always have a habit of throwing up some intriguing betting value, so let’s see if we can’t unearth some decent wagers of our own on Thursday.
Matters are all but settled in Groups A and B, but there’s an interesting situation developing in Group C.
Braga top the pile on ten points and are safely through to the knockout phase, but they will need to win to guarantee top spot from Ludogorets on eight.
The Portuguese outfit travel to Istanbul Basaksehir, the Turkish outfit who can still qualify for the last 32 should Ludogorets lose away from home against Hoffenheim.
“İstanbul Başakşehir-Braga” UEFA Avrupa Ligi Grup Karşılaşması birazdan #TRT1‘de.
— TRT1 (@trt1) December 7, 2017
The Germans have shown signs of form of late in the Bundesliga, beating RB Leipzig 4-0 amongst other promising results, and on home soil they will want to keep that momentum going.
So the door is ajar for Basaksehir, who have got some decent players in the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Emre and Karim Frei. At 5/2 to qualify should they beat Braga, they might just be worth a small flutter.
Milan Primed By Feisty Gattuso
After a summer of heavy investment in a glittering array of young talent, AC Milan were expected to achieve great things this season….but it hasn’t quite panned out that way.
Okay, so they have already qualified for the knockout stage of the Europa League as group winners, but they currently sit eighth in Serie A and that has cost former manager Vincenzo Montella his job.
In his place comes Gennaro Gattuso, something of a club legend but with plenty to prove as a manager. And with this being just his second game in charge, we can expect a strong starting eleven to be picked as he seeks to find his best team.
Opponents Rijeka have lost four of their last six games in the Croatian Premier League and are out after winning just one of five in the Europa League; including a pair of home defeats to AEK Athens and Austria Vienna.
Milan, priced at 23/20, are unmissable value.
Toffees Heading for Sticky Situation
Both Everton and their opponents on Thursday, Apollon Limassol, are both eliminated from the Europa League, so there is very little on the line for either.
Even so, it was amazing to hear Sam Allardyce speaking so candidly about his disinterest in the tie. “It is a dead rubber. I would suggest to the fans that if you are going to spend some money to go and watch them, be mindful that I am going to send a team that is not going to be risking too many players who are going to be involved for Liverpool,” he said.
Indeed, big Sam has confirmed that he won’t even travel to Cyprus with the squad, instead sending assistant Craig Shakespeare to handle proceedings. Allardyce has said he will stay in Merseyside and prepare his side for the derby with Liverpool on Sunday- suggesting a young, shadow squad will make the trip.
Apollon are no great shakes, of course, but they have drawn 1-1 with both Atalanta and Lyon at home, which suggests they are capable. They are worth chancing at 7/5 to beat a second-string Everton eleven.