The UEFA Europa League’s group stages begin this week as clubs from across the continent bid to make an impression in Europe this season.
Leicester and West Ham will fly the flag for the Premier League in this season’s competition, whilst the English duo will be joined by both Celtic and Rangers amongst the teams in the group stage.
Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes will hope to improve on last season’s reaching of the Round of 32, whilst West Ham return to continental competition for the first time since being eliminated from the Europa League’s Play-Off round in 2016/17.
Here are the five favourites to win the 2021/22 Europa League.
Bayer Leverkusen – 20/1
Regulars in both the Champions League and Europa League since the turn of the century, Bayer Leverkusen have been ranked as 20/1 odds to win the trophy this season.
Sixth in the Bundesliga last season, Leverkusen have invested in youth during the summer including the additions of Odilon Kossounou, Amine Adli and Mitchel Bakker – each aged 21 or under.
Patrick Schick – the joint-leading scorer at Euro 2020 – is amongst their forward ranks and the Czech will be tasked with spearheading their campaign, with last season’s joint-leading scorer in all competitions, Leon Bailey, having left for Aston Villa.
Leverkusen reached the round of 32 last season before defeat to Young Boys, and will face Celtic, Real Betis and Ferencvárosi in this season’s group stage.
Both Real Betis and Lyon can also be found at odds of 20/1 in an open initial market.
Lazio – 20/1
Having participated in the Champions League group stages for the first time in over a decade last season, Lazio are back in the Europa League this term after a sixth-place finish in Serie A.
Lazio reached the last-16 of last season’s Champions League before defeat to Bayern Munich and have been priced at odds of 20/1 to lift the Europa League this season.
Maurizio Sarri’s side have strengthened with the cut-price additions of Felipe Andersen, Pedro and Elseid Hysaj, whilst in Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic boast two of the best talents in this season’s group stages.
Sarri also has previous in this competition after leading Chelsea to success in 2018/19 and Lazio – runners-up to Inter Milan in 1998 – have the quality to reach the latter stages.
The Italians face Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille and Galatasaray in a challenging Group E that promises fireworks both on and off the pitch.
West Ham – 16/1
David Moyes’ fine work at West Ham has led to a return to Europe for the Hammers, who performed above expectations to secure a sixth-place finish in the Premier League in 2020/21.
West Ham have disappointed on recent ventures into continental competition, failing to reach the group stages and suffering successive eliminations to Romanian minnows Astra Giurgiu in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
However, Moyes has bolstered his squad this summer and has added significant depth, the arrivals of Alphonse Areola, Kurt Zouma, Alex Kral and Nikola Vlasic providing the Hammers with a better chance of competing on multiple fronts this season.
The lack of specialist centre-forward cover for Michail Antonio remains a concern, but West Ham have a squad capable of making an impression if Moyes’ side can handle the Thursday-Sunday grind of Europa League involvement.
The Hammers kick off their European campaign on Thursday night away to Dinamo Zagreb, before facing Rapid Vienna and Genk in a winnable-looking Group H.
Napoli – 14/1
Napoli have been priced as 14/1 joint-favourites to win the Europa League this season with many leading bookies such as Bet365, which is a great opportunity for those interested in the latest bet365 bonus code. They have featured in the knockout stages of the competition in seven of the past nine campaigns.
Luciano Spalletti’s side missed out on Champions League qualification in Serie A last season by just a single point, but have began the new season in fine form with three successive wins.
Matteo Politano and Andre Zambo Anguissa are the headline arrivals from the club’s summer recruitment, whilst a forward contingent possessing Euro 2020 winner Lorenzo Insigne, Victor Osimhen and Hirving Lozano has the pace and quality to trouble any side.
With a reduced-capacity number of fans having been permitted to return to Italian football during the 2021/22 season, few teams will fancy the trip to the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in this season’s competition.
Leicester will make that venture on match-day six in early December, having been drawn to face the Neapolitan outfit in the group stages.
Leicester – 14/1
Leicester have been priced alongside Napoli as 14/1 joint-favourites for the Europa League this season, with the two teams facing off in match-day one after being drawn together in a group also containing Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw.
Brendan Rodgers’ side topped their group in impressive fashion last season, before a shock defeat to surprise package Slavia Prague in the Round of 32.
The Foxes have kept their key players this summer and have bolstered with a series of exciting additions, with both Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumare having been courted by some of Europe’s elite before making the move to the King Power Stadium.
Ryan Bertrand – a Europa League winner with Chelsea in 2013 – has added experience and depth, as have the additions of both Jannick Vestergaard and Ademola Lookman.
Having narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification in each of the past two seasons, success in this season’s Europa League offers an alternative route into Europe’s premier competition for the Foxes.
Last season’s FA Cup success can breathe confidence into a side that has continually punched above their weight in recent seasons.