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Europa League Preview - and 2 picks for tonight...

Thursday 22nd October 2020

In Across the Leagues today:

  • Europa League – Outright Winner analysis…
  • Celtic v AC Milan…
  • Tottenham v LASK Linz…

Europa League Preview – and 2 picks for tonight…

The 2019/20 Europa League began with two English clubs as the favourites in the betting, Man Utd at 5/1 and Arsenal at 6/1. Both came up dry.

This summer’s final saw 12/1 pre-season shots Sevilla lift the trophy, with Inter Milan runners-up after dropping into the competition after the Champions League Group stage. Inter were 6/1 in the revised Outright market after Christmas.

The 2020/21 Outright Winner market sees Premier League clubs once again chalked up at the shortest prices…

Europa League – Outright Winner analysis…

North London pair Tottenham and Arsenal are joint-favourite at 7/1 each. Followed by a couple of Serie A sides, with AC Milan and Napoli leading the way from the Italian representatives.

If you purely followed stats – picking and choosing, of course – then Tottenham’s favouritism can be franked by the ‘100% trend’ on show courtesy of their manager. Jose Mourinho has entered this competition twice, and won it both times (with Porto and Man Utd). If only it were that simple.

Looking at a wider range of results, the historical Outright Winner figures inform us of a couple of things, that if nothing else, can make us think twice about backing some of the names in the top echelons of the betting…

Choose your nation wisely…

Going back over the last decade, Europa League history tells us that:  

  • In the last 10 years, 5 of the 20 finalists have been English clubs (25%)
     
  • 7 of the last 20 finalists have been Spanish (35%) – including 6 of the last 10 winners (Atletico Madrid 2 wins, Sevilla 4 wins – both those clubs are in the Champions League this season)

And taking note of some very long-running national droughts:

  • Only one of the last 36 finalists (across the past 18 seasons) has come from Germany (Werder Bremen runner-up 2008/09)
  • Inter Milan’s runner-up finish last season was the first time in 21 seasons that an Italian side had reached the final

It’s not an exact science. But recent history says to steer clear of the German and Italian clubs in the Europa League.

And we should also note that all of the Spanish success in this tournament over the last 10 years was down to two clubs, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. Neither are involved this season, instead playing at the top table in the Champions League.

We can use that historical info to draw a line, in pencil at least, through quite a few names on the 2020/21 Europa League list…

Before a ball has been kicked, here’s how the Outright Winner market looks at William Hill:

Europa League 2020-21 Outright Winner

A long and winding road…

Turning our thoughts back to the English clubs. I’m not at all interested in taking single-figure quotes for Tottenham or Arsenal in such a long group-and-knockout tournament format…

Especially when you factor in the fixture pile-up and problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic: with the 2019/20 season not finishing until the summer, the new 2020/21 campaign pretty much rolled straight on after that – and the rescheduled Euro 2020 championships are due to take place in June.

There’s a lot that could go wrong for a measly 7/1 shot between now and next May.

Dropouts move the goalposts…

Nor am I going to go reaching for a rank outsider just for the sake of it. For starters, the odds might not actually change all that much between now and the start of the Knockout phase in February…

Such is the structure of the Europa League season, teams finishing 3rd in their Champions League Groups in December will drop into the lesser of the two UEFA tournaments in the New Year.

Let’s say Celtic, for example, get out of their Europa League Group. And the likes of Spurs, Arsenal, and AC Milan do, too… and then a few names like Ajax, Atalanta, or Atletico Madrid drop into the Europa after Christmas. Or even PSG – who after losing this week, are now playing catch-up on RB Leipzig and Man Utd in their Champions League Group….

If all that was the case, chances are a Europa outsider like Celtic would still be 50/1+ come the start of the Knockouts in February – just as they are now.

The conclusion there being: there’s not much value to be had by getting involved in the Europa League Outright market at the moment. I’ll be monitoring the form and prices. We may make a move at a later date, with the start of the Knockout rounds the likely timeslot for that.

Conspicuous absence…

The conspicuous absence of a Top Goalscorer market for the Europa League only backs up what we’re saying about the ‘Champions League dropout’ factor…

If the bookies are saying they can’t (or don’t want to) form an opinion about which player might score the most goals in this competition – then perhaps we should steer clear of trying to work out which team might win it, too.

None of the high-street firms have a top scorer market up for the Europa. 888 Sport seem to be the only bookie getting involved. And it’s pretty uninspiring, with the obvious names at the top at short odds:

Harry Kane (Tottenham), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan), all at 6/1. And that market is Win Only, with no Each Way options.

Mourinho says the Champions League dropout rule is ‘unfair.’ He’s got a point. From a betting point of view, it’s certainly a goalpost mover. Imagine if a Premier League side got to drop into the EFL Trophy after going out of the FA Cup. A crude example maybe, but you get my point.

In terms of the Outright market, the Europa League is a ‘no bet’ zone for us for now. But when it comes to the match-day options, we’ll certainly be getting involved…

Match-day selections…

There are 24 games on the Europa League fixture list today. Half of them kick off at 5.55pm, with the others at 8pm.

We’re focusing on two scorers in the late kick-offs:

Celtic v AC Milan

Avoiding favourites on the principle of price is one thing. Ignoring a world class striker, in form, in an appealing-looking match-up, is something else…

In the Milan derby last weekend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic landed First Goalscorer odds for us at 9/2 (5.5). The Swedish star has now produced first-goal payouts in six of his last seven starts for AC Milan.

Zlatan is the favourite this evening. But such is his record and pedigree, odds of 3/1 are okay with me. This guy is class. And his recent scoring record is exceptional. I make no apologies for sticking with the star player here.

Tottenham v LASK Linz

You don’t need me to tell you which Tottenham men are top of the betting today…

Harry Kane has scored seven goals in his last three games for Spurs. Heung-Min Son has scored eight times in his last five appearances.

Kane is odds-on to score Anytime tonight, around 4/7 (1.57). Son is Evens (2.0) at best. If you want to jump on those two, don’t let me stop you.

This is where my outsider antenna starts twitching, though. With our Austrian friend from last season, Andreas Gruber, catching the eye at a standout 7/2 (4.5)…

Since moving from Mattersburg to Linz this season, Gruber is proving to be an every-other-game man. Finding the net in three out of six games so far. After drawing a blank in the league at the weekend, that pattern could continue with the 25-year-old midfielder a lively outsider in the Anytime Scorer market here.

There’s certainly a case for the 10/1 match underdogs to get on the scoresheet in London this evening…

Tottenham are 10 games without a clean sheet. That includes nine in a row in all competitions so far this season. With unheralded European opposition Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Shkendija, and Maccabi Haifa all breaching the Spurs defence in recent weeks.

Today’s picks

Europa League – live on BT Sport
8pm

Celtic v AC Milan

  • First Goalscorer: Zlatan Ibrahimovic @ 17/5 (4.4) with 888 Sport, Unibet, 3/1 (4.0) Betfred, Betway, Boylesports

Tottenham v LASK Linz

  • Anytime Scorer: Andreas Gruber @ 7/2 (4.5) with Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, Betway, 10/3 (4.33) Ladbrokes, Coral, Skybet, BetVictor, Betfred

I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of our week’s European work, and of course a look ahead to the weekend fixtures and opportunities…

Enjoy the football…

Best wishes,

Oliver Upstone

Oliver Upstone

Across the Leagues