Europa League Betting Tips

Europa League Match Ball

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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 Ante Post Betting Tips 2019-20

It may not be as prestigious as the Champions League but as we’ve seen time and time again, the Europa League can often be just as riveting and produce just as much excitement. Often bringing together a wider variety of clubs from across the continent, it can prove to be an absolute treat for away supporters hungry to explore new locations. For some fans the journey started as early as June, with the preliminary qualification round marking a quick end to the summer break. Not much fun for the players but great for those wanting some decent football to bet on!

Although last year’s edition of the Europa League was shrouded in controversy due to the decision to hold the final in Baku, such problems shouldn’t arise again. This time the Stadion Energa in Gdansk is set to host the finale, a 41,620 capacity stadium used for Euro 2012, in a city that is easy to reach from most major football countries. The deciding contest may be a long away off but here we take an early look at who stands the best chance of lifting the trophy in Poland.

English clubs lead the charge

Manchester United Stadium (Old Trafford)

Credit: Debu55y / Bigstock

Last season we saw the first ever all-English Europa League final since 1972 but despite the long wait, a repeat wouldn’t be any great surprise. Manchester United (6/1) and Arsenal (8/1) spearhead the Premier League offensive with the pair already confirmed in the group stages.

Arsenal of course went all the way to the final last year while the Red Devils secured Europa League glory in 2017. Neither will take this upcoming edition lightly either as the prize of Champions League football is a great one considering how hard it is to obtain via the league.

Having reached the final of the competition four times already, Unai Emery certainly helps give Arsenal plenty of appeal. The Spaniard failed to inspire his team in the Premier League last year but he regularly got the best out of them on the continent. A difficult path to the final saw the Gunners win away at both Napoli and Valencia before making it to Baku. Although they rather capitulated in the final, it’s important to remember they were without several key players. Handed a little more luck on the absences front this time, the north Londoners could end their long wait for European silverware as Emery continues thee rebuilding job at the Emirates.

Despite their success three seasons back, United don’t fully justify their short-price. There are too many problems to fix at Old Trafford and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t look like having the answers. His inexperience showed towards the end of the last campaign and he finds himself as the joint favourite to be the next Premier League manager facing the sack.

However, it should be remembered that with a squad that was arguably worse, the Mancunians managed to go all the way in 2017, but they enjoyed an easy run to the final, one which they almost messed up on two occasions. If Solskjaer brings in the right players this summer we might be inclined to change our minds but until then United are ones to swerve at the odds.

Wolves in for a reality check

Wolves Molineux Stadium

By Adam Hinett, flickr

For a side that only achieved promotion to the Premier League in 2018, being able to join Manchester United and Arsenal in Europe is an incredible feat for Wolves (33/1). The Midlanders will complete England’s three-pronged attack if able to successfully navigate the rigours of pre-qualification. This is not something you can take for granted of course as we saw with Burnley last season. While Wolves have the quality to make it through to the group stages, it’s here where the wheels may well begin to fall off.

Under Nuno Espirito Santo, England’s seventh best team deservedly gained a reputation for being a big-game side. A quick glance at their record against the English top six tells you why, with Wolves losing just three matches against the Premier League elite. Their fearlessness in such matches is an excellent quality but their squad depth is a major concern and will become more of an issue with the infamous Thursday/Sunday Europa League schedule. Santo operated limited rotation last season and was fortunate not to suffer many injury problems. Lacking quality in reserve to help with midweek matches, fatigue is surely going to prove problematic.

Italy’s decline continues

Roma Stadio Olimpico

By Nicholas Gemini, Wikimedia Commons

Between 1989 and 1999, Italian clubs absolutely ran riot in this competition, winning it on eight occasions. A further six clubs ended runners-up during a period of utter domination from Serie A representatives. Not since then however has a side from the boot shaped country made their way into the final. A 20 year drought is truly something given that the Italian top-flight was previously the best league in European football. Having also failed to enjoy any Champions League success since 2010, Italians clubs don’t look to be the way forward.

Rome rivals Lazio (14/1) and Roma (20/1) are early group stage qualifiers while Torino (50/1) enjoyed a surprise qualification spot following AC Milan’s ban. Given that true shocks are a rarity in this competition you have to write off Torino’s chances and it’s hard to say either Lazio or Roma offer much more appeal.

Lazio crashed out in the round of 32 last season, losing 3-0 to Sevilla. Roma also failed during the first knockout stage but of the Champions League, eliminated by Porto who are hardly one of the most impressive sides on the continent.

History favours Sevilla

Sevilla Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán

By Frobles, Wikimedia Commons

No team has won this competition more times than Sevilla (16/1). It’s a record all the more impressive given that the Spaniards’ first taste of success didn’t come until 2006. Since then the Andalusians have lifted the UEFA Cup, or the rebranded Europa League, five times, including an unprecedented hat-trick (2014-2016). Last year a surprise defeat in extra time to Slavia Prague denied them a shot of making more history but the future is bright for them under former Spain boss Julen Lopetegui.

The Spanish manager flopped badly at Real Madrid but his undefeated record in charge of the national side shows he’s fully capable. The former goalkeeper has received the backing of the board too having made a series of signings such as Luuk de Jong from PSV, Lucas Ocampos from Marseille and Munas Dabbur from RB Salzburg. Although it’ll likely take their host of new players some time to gel, they should be fully finding their feet by the time the knockout stages get underway.

Jovic loss huge for Frankfurt

Eintracht Frankfurt Commerzbank Arena

Few sides impressed more in last year’s Europa League than Eintracht Frankfurt (33/1). Unbeaten in the group stages, the Eagles then navigated a tricky knockout route, dumping out Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter and then Benfica. Chelsea awaited in the semi-finals but a penalty shootout, essentially a coin toss, went narrowly against them. Having battled so well against the eventual winners, you might think odds of 33/1 are an absolute steal for the team that finished seventh in last year’s Bundesliga, but in our eyes, you’d be wrong.

So pivotal to Frankfurt’s continental run was Serbian striker Luka Jovic who netted 10 goals, an average of one every 95 minutes. Such is the talent he displayed during the campaign that Real Madrid swooped to sign his services for a reported €60m fee. If that loss wasn’t bad enough, the Germans also look set to wave goodbye to Ante Rebic, another major player for them. The funds are there to find replacements but replacing Jovic in particular will be a near impossible task.

Getafe true wildcards

For those of you who don’t follow Spanish football closely, you might be asking how Getafe (25/1) ended up taking one of their Europa League spots. Some are still figuring it out but it was absolutely no fluke. Since taking over in September 2016, manager Jose Bordalas has worked miracles at the club, getting them back into La Liga before guiding them to their best ever top flight finish (5th). Fundamental to their success last season was their defence, which was the joint second best in the division.

Given that Spanish clubs have won this competition more than any other nation, you don’t want to be quick to write off Getafe despite their lack of European experience. This will be their first involvement in the Europa League since the 2010-11 campaign when they suffered group stage elimination. Much like with Wolves though, quality in depth is likely to be an issue. Getafe don’t have the resources to beef up their reinforcements and at the moment they have the likes of Crystal Palace cast-off Mathieu Flamini and uncapped Scottish forward Jack Harper acting as back-up.

St Etienne head limp French contingent

Rennes Roazhon Park

By Mypouss, flickr

Marseille and Monaco are the only French teams this century to have made it to the final of a European competition. Each time it ended in heartache too, not the best omen for St Etienne (40/1) and fellow Ligue 1 representatives Rennes (60/1) and Strasbourg (100/1). The latter pair finished 10th and 11th respectively in Ligue 1 last season, gaining their Europa League places through domestic cup competitions. Although Rennes gave Arsenal a scare in last year’s Europa League, it’s tough to see either surviving too long in this upcoming edition.

Saint Etienne make for a more tempting option having finished only six points behind Lyon last season. Although they’ve lost young defender William Saliba to Arsenal, the 18-year-old will remain at his current Ligue 1 club on loan for another season. He could well have a major part to play in Les Verts’ European journey as he put in a series of impressive displays towards the end of the previous campaign. We’re not going to go as far as to tip Saint Etienne to go all the way but a quarter-final appearance is certainly a realistic goal.

Dropouts a danger

Every year talented sides miss out on the Champions League knockout stages and fall into the Europa League round of 32. The format doesn’t sit well with all but it’s not likely to change any time soon. Champions League dropouts have generally fared pretty well, representing half of the last 24 Europa League finalists and winning on five occasions.

The introduction of eight Champions League teams midway through Europe’s second most prestigious club competition therefore has a tendency to shake up the betting. This is fairly reflected in the prices offered though with the current odds offered for the Europa League winners noticeably longer than winners for the Champions League.

In some respects it’s perhaps a good idea to split your bets for the Europa League into two halves. Get the first half in nice and early and the second when it’s confirmed which Champions League dropouts will be making the step down. Although you’d fancy the likes of Arsenal and Sevilla against many Champions League sides, there are a few who you wouldn’t back them against. It only takes a bad ‘group of death’ draw for one of the big boys of world football to find themselves playing in this competition come February.

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?