Europa League draw

Ranking the five favourites to win the 2020/21 Europa League

The draw for the group stages of the Europa League was made this week with a host of British and Irish sides learning their fate, the Premier League contingent all likely to be fancied to make an impact in the latter stages.

Arsenal – who face Dundalk – and Tottenham will be confident of progress after the north London duo were handed straightforward looking groups, whilst Leicester will also be keen to make their mark as they face off against Braga, AEK Athens and Zorya Luhansk.

Celtic can look forward to a clash against seven-time European champions AC Milan in a difficult looking Group H alongside Lille and Sparta Prague, whilst Rangers will hope to upset the odds once more to progress from a group containing Portuguese giants Benfica.

Villarreal – 16/1

Villarreal bounced back in fine style last season to secure Europa League football after flirting with relegation from Spanish football’s top tier the previous year, a strong run of results post-lockdown helping to secure a fifth-placed finish and European qualification.

The club’s success was built on a fine attack with only Real Madrid and Barcelona scoring more goals than the Yellow Submarine, Gerard Moreno scoring 20 goals in all competitions and ably supported by the evergreen talents of Santi Cazorla.

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The departure of the veteran midfielder and loanee André-Frank Zambo Anguissa is a blow but Villarreal have strengthened with a raid on financially-hit Valencia, signing midfield duo Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin for bargain fees.

Villarreal opted for a change of management despite last season’s success with the appointment of former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, a man with huge pedigree in European competition after winning three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla.

Napoli – 14/1

Napoli somehow salvaged a season spent largely in crisis to lift the Coppa Italia and secure Europa League qualification, improving under the stewardship of Gennaro Gattuso over the second half of the campaign.

Gattuso steadied the ship after an initial slow start following his appointment as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor, and the club will be hoping to build on that foundation with a successful campaign this time around.

Despite speculation surrounding the futures of Arkadiusz Milik and Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli have largely kept their key players at the club this summer and have strengthened with the intriguing club-record arrival of Victor Osimhen from Lille.

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The huge fee for the Nigerian international has raised eyebrows given he spent just one – albeit impressive – season in French football and the 21-year-old will be expected to spearhead the side in the coming campaign.

It’s been a decade since an Italian club last won a European trophy and no Serie A side has won the Europa League since the late nineties – Napoli will be hoping to end the drought.

AC Milan – 12/1

Another Italian outfit priced amongst the favourites, AC Milan return to the European stage this season after a one-year ban from continental competition for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations.

It’s been a difficult decade for the seven-time European champions who have found themselves in the doldrums, failing to compete for major silverware both at home and abroad in recent seasons.

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After several years of mismanagement and poor recruitment Milan now have the basis of a fine side, however, a host of exciting youngsters – including the likes of Gianluigi Donnarumma, Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer – joined by the precociously talented summer signing Sandro Tonali.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s signing of a new one-year contract will also be a major boost given the Swede’s impact after returning to the San Siro and he could prove key to their hopes of reaching the latter stages, the 38-year-old having scored 10 goals in just 16 league starts after signing last winter.

Tottenham – 8/1

Jose Mourinho was appointed as Tottenham manager with the hope the serial winner could bring long-awaited silverware success to the north London side, and the Europa League is regarded as a realistic avenue for Spurs with the club priced as second favourites with the bookmakers.

Mourinho has struggled to extract consistency from his players since taking charge last November, but will have increased hopes of success this season after moulding his squad during the transfer window.

The arrivals of Matt Doherty, Sergio Reguilon and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg strengthen key areas of weakness for the north London side, whilst the club are closing in on a deal for Benfica forward Vinicius as they finally look to secure competition and cover for Harry Kane.

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The headline news from the summer has been the return of Gareth Bale, however, the former fans’ favourite returning to Spurs on a season-long loan deal following a difficult period at Real Madrid.

Twice named as the PFA Player of the Year during his previous spell at Spurs, a fully fit Bale – working in tandem with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min – could give Mourinho one of Europe’s most exciting forward lines and has the potential to fire the club to Europa League success.

Arsenal – 7/1

Installed as the favourites for the Europa League are Arsenal, who have made significant progress under the guidance of Mikel Arteta in recent months.

Arteta proved he can guide the Gunners to silverware after winning the FA Cup last season before securing a Community Shield victory over Liverpool, their performances in those competitions emphasising the increased resilience in the Spaniard’s side.

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The north London outfit finished as runners-up for the Europa League two years ago and will hope to go one better this season, in what offers an alternative route back into the Champions League after a prolonged absence from Europe’s premier competition.

Arsenal undoubtedly possess the firepower to trouble most teams with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian amongst their ranks, and much may depend on how a new-look defence – including summer signing Gabriel – settles into a cohesive unit.

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