Europa League Betting Tips

Europa League Match Ball

vverve, bigstockphoto.com

The Europa League is Europe’s second club competition behind the Champions League. Formally the UEFA Cup, it has been in its current guise since the 2009/10 season.

Like the Champions League, the Europa League also features teams from across Europe competing in a league format before entering a knockout phase in the final stages. The qualification for this starts as early as June depending on UEFA coefficients, with Champions League group stage dropouts also entering the fray during the round of 32.

Although not quite matching the prestige of the Champions League, winning the Europa League does gain that team entry into the following season’s premier competition so silverware isn’t all that is at stake. Manchester United, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla have all won in recent years with Liverpool and Fulham also reaching finals since becoming the Europa League.

Below are our previews and tips for the biggest games across the latest round of matches.

Europa League Final – 29th May 2019

Date Time Channel Match Tip
29/05/19 20:00 BT Sport Chelsea v Arsenal Chelsea Win
Chelsea to Win 2-1

London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal lock horns in the 2019 UEFA Europa League final at the Olympic Stadium in Baku on Wednesday evening. It is a long journey for both sets of fans but victory would make it an unforgettable trip and make all the miles well worth the hassle. This final could go either way in Azerbaijan, but Maurizio Sarri’s side, who finished two points and two places above Arsenal in the Premier League, are the 11/8 favourites with the bookies to win in the 90.

Unai Emery is a Europa League expert, though, winning the competition on three occasions during his time in Spain with Sevilla. Can the 47-year-old Spaniard guide the Gunners to European success on Wednesday? Chelsea are safely in the Champions League next season but the Gunners need to win to book their spot as England’s fifth representative, so they might just have that little extra motivation. This promises to be a memorable final between these two Premier League giants and it serves as a brilliant warm-up to the all-English Champions League final that follows a few days later.

Blues to Nick it in Baku

Baku Olympic Stadium

By Abbaszade656, Wikimedia Commons

Chelsea have been one of the favourites to lift the Europa League all season, as the Blues have one of the strongest squads in the competition and plenty of European know-how. On their way to the final of this year’s Europa League, Sarri’s men finished top of Group L, beating the likes of BATE Borisov, MOL Vidi and PAOK along the way.

After easing past Malmo and Dynamo Kiev in the early knockout rounds, Chelsea then edged out Slavia Prague over two legs in the quarter-final. Things were even tougher for the west London outfit in the last four, as Eintracht Frankfurt of Germany took the Blues all the way to penalties at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard, who could be on his way out of Chelsea this summer, netted the all-important winner from the spot to send his side through. What has made their run even more impressive is the fact that they played a weaker side for many of their games as they sought to maintain a title challenge and then latterly their top four push.

As for Arsenal, they also eased through qualifying as they finished ahead of Sporting Lisbon, Vorskla Poltava and Qarabag in Group E, winning five and drawing one of their six group matches. The Gunners have looked very strong in the knockout stages, beating BATE, Rennes, Napoli and Valencia to reach the final. Those latter two ought to have been really tough tests, Napoli and Valencia both very strong, but the north Londoners won 3-0 and 7-3 on aggregate respectively.

As said, Chelsea finished two points above Arsenal in the Premier League this season. The Blues ended their campaign in third spot, booking their place in next season’s Champions League. The Gunners, meanwhile, finished in fifth, meaning they have to win the Europa League to get back into Europe’s top competition next term.

This Europa League final really could go either way in Baku. The Blues are the slight favourites, but they have won just one of their last eight league and cup meetings with Arsenal. Still, we fancy Sarri’s Chelsea to edge it in the Azerbaijani capital. The Blues to win in normal time is nicely priced at 11/8 and with Hazard at his best on what might be his last Chelsea appearance, that looks good to us.

Narrow Victory for Sarri’s Side

Back in August, Chelsea edged a five-goal thriller against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. The hosts raced into a 2-0 lead before the 20th minute, with Pedro and Alvaro Morata getting the goals. However, the Gunners hit back in style before the break thanks to goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi. With time running out, Marcos Alonso gave the home team the points with a smart finish from a tight angle.

In the reverse matchup at the Emirates Stadium in January, Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners after a solid performance. Alexandre Lacazette got them up and running after just 14 minutes, with Laurent Koscielny doubling their advantage shortly before half time. Chelsea managed just one shot on target in the entire game.

As we mentioned, Chelsea have struggled in this fixture in recent years. However, when the pair last met in Europe, the Blues beat Arsenal 3-2 on aggregate in a Champions League quarter-final back in 2004, with Wayne Bridge scoring the famous winner.

With this being a European final on neutral ground, Wednesday’s clash has the potential to be a tight and nervy affair in Baku. With that in mind, take a punt on Chelsea to win 2-1 at the top odds of 17/2.

About the Europa League

The UEFA Europa League (EL) is a pan-European football tournament sanctioned by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). UEFA hosts two similar events, with the Europa League the lower level competition, ranked behind the more prestigious, lucrative and longer established Champions League.

Until being rebranded in 2009 this tournament was known as the UEFA Cup but still held the same secondary status. Essentially the Europa League is the UEFA Cup, just with a different name, by which we mean that as far as UEFA’s own records go, the two are one and the same.

Now, you quite probably already knew those most basic of basic facts regarding this wonderful cup competition. However, below you can find an array of lesser-known information if you want to really brush up the Europa League (as we will now refer to the tournament both pre- and post-rebranding). That will include a more in-depth history of the competition, as well as some great trivia and one or two strategic betting pointers that might help you make a profit from betting on the EL.

Tournament Format

The Europa League may not get neutrals quite as excited as the Champions League but it remains a huge competition. It features a huge 48-team group phase and with 160 teams taking part in total (as of the 2018-19 season, as with all facts unless stated otherwise), it sometimes seems like there are endless Europa League games.

That’s great for punters, with masses of Thursday night football to enjoy and bet on, with kick-offs staggered too, meaning it’s easy to watch more than one game on the same evening. There is now more television coverage of the Europa League than ever before, so you really are spoiled for choice if you want to watch and bet on the EL.

As with its “big brother” the Champions League, the Europa League offers 12 months of football action if you include the earliest rounds. In 2018 the draw for the preliminary rounds was made all the way back on the 12th June. That saw 14 minnows of European football, such as Wales’ Cefn Druids and Engordany from Andorra, play their first games of that year’s tournament the same month.

With the final scheduled for the 29th May 2019, that’s almost a full year of action and a full year in which you can bet on the Europa League. Those earliest stages may not receive too much attention from punters and bookies but once the group phase begins in September the best football betting sites around really up their games.

Europa League Betting Strategy

Options for betting on these games can seem overwhelming, with a typical Thursday seeing literally thousands of markets over all the matches. So, where should you start when trying to have a bet or two on the Europa League and how can you seek to beat the bookies at what is, really, their own game?

We have loads and loads of betting strategy info on the site and you can see that in our main football strategy section. In essence, betting on the Champions League and Europa League are very, very similar. The Champions League may be a little more glamorous than the EL and take place earlier in the week; and the format of the competition is somewhat different. However, when it comes to strategic betting tips, the two are virtually interchangeable.

As such, rather than repeat ourselves, we suggest you take a look at our dedicated feature on the UEFA Champions League. If that sounds like too much effort, we’ll recap the most pertinent info here, perfect if you don’t want the full analysis.

Bet on the Early Stages

For those with local or specific knowledge about Europe’s minnows, or those really prepared to put the time and effort in, the preliminary and qualifying rounds might well serve up a tidy profit.

The bookies spend more time and money making their odds as accurate as possible for the games that attract the most money. Fewer punters bet on the EL before the group phase so if you know your stuff, this might be the best time to cash in.

Spain to Reign?

In the Champions League article we explained how backing Real Madrid every year might be the simplest effective betting tactic going. No side has dominated the EL in quite the same way, although Sevilla did win five times between 2006 and 2016, including three in a row from 2014.

Backing Sevilla won’t, therefore, work out but backing a Spanish side in the outright market could prove a similarly lucrative tactic. Spanish sides have won the EL 11 times, more than any other nation. Though 11 wins since 1971 might not sound that impressive, nine of those wins have come since 2004, including five wins between 2011-12 and 2017-18.

UEFA’s Technical Report?

In our guide to the Champions League we highlighted some developing trends that could offer an insight into betting on the competition. These trends are virtually spelled out in the annual technical report that UEFA produces for the CL.

Well, those generous analysts and stats geeks kindly also produce a report for the Europa League too. This can easily be found online and is sure to hold a wealth of information that will help out punters prepared to put in the groundwork.

History of the Europa League

The Europa League was founded in 1971 and, as said, was originally called the UEFA Cup. It was preceded by the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which was founded in 1955, the same year as the Champions League (then called the European Cup).

The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was not a UEFA-sanctioned competition and started out with just 11 teams. It grew quite quickly though and by its final season 64 teams took part. This growth made UEFA feel the competition had real merit so they effectively took it over, relaunching it as the UEFA Cup for the 1971-72 campaign.

There were various tweaks over the years, with changes to format and size but for the 1999-2000 season we saw a really major alteration. Prior to then, there had been another major inter-European cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (CWC) for the winners of the major domestic cups in each UEFA country.

This merged into the Europa League after the 1998-99 season, leaving Lazio as the last side to win the CWC. In fact, this had only a relatively minor impact on the EL, simply hastening its expansion and altering the way in which teams qualified for it.

The Europa League is Born

In 2009 we saw a much bigger change, with the UEFA Cup rebranded as the Europa League for the 2009-10 season. As well as a change of name, the competition also saw the UEFA Intertoto Cup (IC) become merged into it. The IC hadn’t proved a huge success and was effectively a third – or even fourth – tier European competition and teams that would have played in that now entered the EL in its early rounds.

The Europa League, despite steadily growing more lucrative, still lagged a long way behind the CL in prestige, glamour and finances. This meant that many sides, especially top teams who felt they belonged in the CL, did not take the EL 100% seriously.

Many sides fielded weakened XIs, so in an attempt to make the Europa League seem less of a poisoned chalice and more of a competition clubs and fans could really buy into, UEFA decided to award the winners of the competition a place in the following season’s Champions League.

In 2015 Spain’s Sevilla became the first side to take advantage of this after they beat Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-2 in Warsaw. Sevilla actually earned a spot directly into the group stage of the CL but that was only because the place reserved for the winners of the previous year’s CL wasn’t needed (finalists Juventus and Barcelona had already secured their group phase position via their league finish. Got all that?!).

In the 2017-18 season, seeking to further boost the prestige of the competition, UEFA once again decided to enhance the prize on offer to the winners of the Europa League. As of then and at the time of writing, the side lifting the EL will not only qualify for the Champions League but they will also be catapulted straight through to the group stage.

Format of the Europa League

As with most long-standing competitions in football, the precise format of the EL has been tweaked many times over the years. The biggest change was when the league/group format was introduced. Prior to the 1997-98 season, the Europa League was entirely a two-legged knockout competition, with even the final played home and away.

In 1998 Inter Milan won the first ever final at a neutral venue, beating Lazio 3-0 at the Parc des Prince in Paris. It wasn’t until the 2004–05 season that we really saw a major change though, with the introduction of a group phase.

Since then there have been yet more minor changes but the 2018-19 Europa League worked thus:

  • UEFA coefficients are used to determine the best national leagues
  • The higher ranked nations receive more places in the Europa League and enter the competition later on
  • Teams are also seeded at various points throughout the competition depending on the coefficient and their previous results
  • There are two pathways through qualifying, the Champions Path (for league champions) and the Main Path (for non-champions and cup winners)
  • Teams are divided by path in the second and third qualifying rounds, and the play-off round
  • 14 teams from low ranking nations compete home and away in the preliminary rounds
  • 7 sides progress to first qualifying round, joining 87 other higher ranked sides
  • The winning 47 of these sides are joined by 27 higher ranked sides in the second qualifying round, again playing home and away
  • The third qualifying round sees the 37 winners from the previous round and 13 teams entering at this round, plus two sides dropping down from the CL qualifying process
  • 42 teams compete in the play-off round, playing home and away to determine the final 21 teams progressing to the group stage
  • The Group stage sees these 21 join 10 sides dropping down from the CL plus 17 higher ranked clubs play in 12 groups of four
  • Each team in the group plays home and away for a total of six games each
  • The top two qualify for the last 32 where they are joined by eight third-placed Champions League group stage teams
  • From the last 32 until the final, the Europa League follows a standard cup knockout format, with ties decided over two legs; if level after two legs, the ties goes to extra time and then, if required, penalties
  • The final is a simple one-off game at a pre-decided venue

Facts & Figures

We’ve got 10 tidy Europa League facts, just to lighten things up in case you’ve heard enough complicated EL structure info about qualifying rounds to last you a lifetime!

  1. Second tier riches – prize money for the EL winners was €8.5m in the 2018-19 season, compared to €19m for the CL, but various bonuses along the way and TV money make the difference in riches much more substantial than that
  2. Winners – Sevilla have won the Europa League five times and never lost a final. Liverpool are one of four sides to have three titles to their name
  3. Losers – Benfica and Marseille hold the highly unwanted record for the most final appearances without winning the competition, both having lost three EL finals
  4. No Barca? – seven Spanish sides have appeared in the UEFA Cup/Europa League final but Barca aren’t one of them
  5. Wolves – the first ever Europa League final was held at Molineux Stadium as Wolves hosted Spurs in the first leg of the 1972 final
  6. Scorer – Sweden’s Henrik Larsson is the top goalscorer in the competition, notching 40 goals in 56 games for Feyenoord, Celtic and Helsingborg. Jupp Heynckes has the best EL goals per game record of any top striker though, with 1.095 goals per game
  7. Comeback Kings – In the 1975-76 EL Club Brugge lost the first leg 3-0 to Ipswich but won the return 4-0, the best comeback in the competition’s history
  8. Falcao – former Chelsea and Man United striker Radamel Falcao holds the record for most goals in a single EL season. He notched 17 for Porto in the 2010-11 campaign
  9. Appearances – Giuseppe Bergomi has made the most appearances in the competition, managing 96 for Inter, although he never managed to score
  10. Top Coach – Arsenal’s Unai Emery has coached a side 63 times (and counting) in the EL. That’s more than any other boss and he’s also lifted the trophy three times. Can he make that four with the Gunners?