The remaining sides in this season’s Europa League can now prepare for their knockout stage opponents following the draw for the competition’s round of 32, with five British sides remaining in pursuit of the trophy.
Arsenal, Tottenham and Leicester all qualified for the next stage as group winners, whilst they will be joined by Manchester United following their early elimination from the Champions League.
Rangers also continue to upset the odds in Europe and will fly the flag for Scotland in the knockout stages, Steven Gerrard’s side set to meet Royal Antwerp after winning Group D in impressive fashion.
So for those of you interested in following the odds on the best betting sites like Gamblerzz.com, we’ve decided to look at how the bookmakers view the race to be crowned as champions.
Here are the six favourites to win the Europa League:
Leicester City – 12/1
Leicester continue to impress under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers and reached the knockout stages in comfortable fashion, finishing ahead of Braga in Group G before being handed a two-legged clash with Slavia Prague in the last 32.
Leicester are embarking on just their second appearance in Europe’s secondary competition having exited in the first round some two decades ago, though the bookmakers regard Rodgers’ side as 12/1 dark horses to emerge as champions.
The Foxes are currently third in the Premier League and just a point adrift of the league leaders, their squad well-balanced and containing youthful talents in James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi.
✅ Start 2021 with a win
🎯 Maddison on target
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) January 4, 2021
The key, however, remains Jamie Vardy who continues to star as one of English football’s most clinical finishers, having followed last season’s Golden Boot-winning campaign with 13 goals in 15 starts in all competitions during the current campaign.
Few will relish the prospect of facing Leicester in the knockout stages and their home form could make the difference, Rodgers’ side having won each of their three Europa League fixtures at the King Power Stadium by a combined aggregate score of 9-0.
Napoli – 12/1
Napoli are also regarded as 12/1 outsiders for the competition, with the Italians a side with plenty of pedigree in European competition over the past decade.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side endured a disappointing domestic campaign last season in addition to reaching the quarter-finals of the Europa League, though secured qualification for this season’s competition after winning the Coppa Italia.
The Neapolitan outfit have bounced back this season and currently sit two points adrift of the Champions League places in Serie A, whilst they qualified for the round of 32 as group winners and will face Granada in the first knockout round.
Gattuso’s squad is packed full of talent with Kalidou Koulibaly amongst the most highly-rated centre-backs in world football, whilst captain Lorenzo Insigne headlines a formidable forward line containing Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and €70m summer signing Victor Osimhen.
Napoli have had success in the competition previously and lifted the UEFA Cup during the 1988/89 season at the height of Diego Maradona’s spell in Naples, another victory in this season’s competition perhaps a fitting way to celebrate the late club icon.
AC Milan – 9/1
AC Milan’s renaissance this season has been one of the key stories in Italian football, with the Rossoneri the current league leaders following a brilliant start to the campaign.
After a decade in the doldrums, it marks a welcome return to prominence for one of Europe’s most successful clubs, the seven-time Champions League winners hoping to return to former glories in the coming seasons.
Stefano Pioli’s will face Red Star Belgrade in the round of 32 after topping Group H, their side brimming with confidence at present with the likes of Theo Hernandez and Hakim Calhanoglu having enjoyed fine starts to the campaign.
Spearheading the charge for Milan is the evergreen Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has enjoyed a phenomenal second spell at the San Siro after returning to European football from MLS side LA Galaxy.
The 39-year-old has scored 22 goals in 30 appearances since signing for Milan earlier this year, including 10 in just six league appearances during the current campaign.
Four players have now scored 10+ goals in Serie A this season:
◉ Cristiano Ronaldo (12)
◉ Romelu Lukaku (12)
◉ Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10)
◉ Ciro Immobile (10) 🆕
Zlatan has only played six games. 😱 pic.twitter.com/DzkU7uXpwl
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 3, 2021
Ibrahimovic previously won the Europa League with Manchester United in 2016/17 but missed the latter stages through injury, the forward now tasked with firing Milan to a first ever Europa League crown.
Arsenal – 9/1
Arsenal have endured their worst ever start to a Premier League season and worst in any campaign for more than four decades, languishing in 11th in the division despite a recent renaissance of three consecutive victories.
Their struggles domestically have been in contrast to their performances on the European stage, however, with the north London side having breezed into the knockout stages with a flawless record of six victories from six group stage fixtures.
That record has seen Mikel Arteta’s side priced at odds of 9/1 to win the trophy, their batch of promising youngsters having played fearlessly in continental competition so far and it remains to be seen whether the Spaniard retains his faith in youth during the knockout stages.
Joe Willock = most impressive group stage midfielder? 🔴
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) December 29, 2020
The Gunners have been handed a tricky assignment after being drawn to face Benfica in the next round, as they bid to reach the final of the competition for a second time in three seasons after finishing as runners-up to Chelsea in 2019.
Victory in this season’s Europa League will also provide Arsenal with a long-awaited return to the Champions League stage, Arteta’s side facing a difficult task to secure a top four finish this season following a dreadful start to the campaign.
Manchester United – 6/1
Jose Mourinho questioned the fairness in Champions League drop-outs joining the Europa League’s knockout stages and named former side Manchester United amongst the new favourites, a notion that the bookmakers agree with after pricing the Red Devils at odds of 6/1.
United somehow contrived to exit the Champions League group stages despite making a brilliant start to their campaign, beating Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in their opening two fixtures before bowing out following a disappointing defeat to the Germans in the reverse fixture in gameweek six.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have enjoyed some impressive European nights under his reign and those aforementioned results demonstrate United’s ability to compete with some of the continent’s finest, whilst the Norwegian also guided the club to the last four of the Europa League last season.
United have, however, been handed a difficult draw for the round of 32 and will face Real Sociedad, who have enjoyed a promising start to the season in Spain and possess a strong former Premier League contingent in Nacho Monreal, ex-United winger Adnan Januzaj and Manchester City icon David Silva.
After reaching three semi-finals last season Solskjaer will be desperate to secure his first major trophy, and the Europa League offers a realistic avenue to bring silverware to Old Trafford.
Tottenham – 5/1
Tottenham’s impressive start to the Premier League season has seen the north London side priced as 5/1 favourites to win the Europa League this season, as Jose Mourinho bids to win the trophy for a third time.
Spurs enjoyed a productive summer transfer window and added the likes of Gareth Bale, Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon to their squad, whilst Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has become a key figure in the side since his signing from Southampton.
Mourinho’s strength in depth has allowed to him to rotate his options in Europe so far, with Spurs topping a testing group after securing victory over Royal Antwerp in their final group stage fixture.
⚪️ Spurs = English League Cup finalists ✅
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) January 6, 2021
The Portuguese is also likely to be pleased with his side’s draw for the round of 32, having been paired with the lowest ranked side in Austrian minnows Wolfsberger ahead of the two-legged ties that will be played in late February.
Mourinho’s appointment as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor was designed to bring long-awaited silverware to Spurs with the club having won just a solitary League Cup since the turn of the century, the serial-winner likely to have his sights set firmly on lifting the Europa League this season.