THE Europa League resumes this week and we asked Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) to analyse the outright market and share his favourite fancies.
Europa League Outright Betting Preview | Monday 3rd August 2020
The Europa League returns after a near five-month hiatus with 16 teams battling it out for a trophy and a place in next season’s Champions League.
I’ll break down a couple of teams that I fancy to go far.
Inter Milan (11/2 Bet365)
Inter Milan have enjoyed a very good season under the stewardship of Antonio Conte, finishing off their domestic season with an impressive 2-0 win at fellow top four side Atalanta.
To keep the best attacking line-up in Serie A so quiet was testament to how solid a defensive unit the squad have been. Two early goals were perfect for the way the 3-5-2 system sets up, allowing the team to settle in to a compact structure which proves very tough to break down.
The wing-backs have caused problems all season long in support of the front two players, usually Lukaku and Martinez but more regularly Alexis Sanchez in recent weeks. The money spent on improving the squad last summer has paid dividends and the best defence in Italy are looking to turn a good season into a superb one with a trophy to add to the cabinet.
It was of course not too many years ago that Inter were winning the Champions League final in Madrid, dispatching Bayern Munich to sit on top of European football. Although a Europa League triumph would not be as prestigious as those glory days, it would be a significant achievement in comparison to the woeful campaigns of years gone by.
Throughout the squad is significant quality. Handanovic in goal is a great shot stopper and is supported by one of the best centre-backs in world football for some time now in Diego Godin, Stefan de Vrij, the experienced Ashley Young and Antonio Candreva at wing-back.
Conte knows how to get the best out of these players and having never won a trophy outside of domestic honours, he will be determined to make amends for that in Cologne in late August.
One defeat in 14 is an impressive pre-cursor to their entry into the final rounds of the competition and it’s the squad experience, as well as the tactical nous of the coach, that makes me want to back them to go far.
In terms of the draw, they have been pitted against Getafe in the last 16. Although their opponents have punched above their way all season and can certainly cause an upset on their day, I can’t see them getting the better of Conte’s boys over 90 minutes, particularly as they limped to a poor end of the season.
Moving on to the quarter finals and it would most likely be Leverkusen to contend with. That would be tough, particularly with the Germans having ‘home’ advantage but with plenty of speculation around one or two of Peter Bosz’s star players, Kai Havertz especially, Inter should have much more focus and will be sharper than Bayer considering that Serie A has only just finished.
None of Basel, Shakhtar or Wolfsburg – the only likely semi-final opponents – possess the same top level quality as Inter do so the final looks to be the minimum expectation.
The saying often goes that goals win games and defences win championships. I think there’s a lot of truth in that so I’m going to have an each way play on the 11/2 for Inter to win the competition. I think they’ll at least get to the final so if they do, we’d get at half the returns if they fall just short or a full win if they lift the trophy.
Manchester United (11/4 888)
Manchester United can certainly look to a more positive second half of the season as a basis for belief that they can win the Europa League for the third time in three years.
A strong end to a sticky campaign with marked improvement is a tonic for a much better 2020/21 season but expectations need to be reigned in slightly in some quarters. Talk of title challenges is surely premature with some obvious problems in the United squad still yet to be solved.
In goal, David De Gea is making error after error which is not justifying his £300,000+ per week wages. At the back there are still too many individual errors and Solskjær is yet to settle on a central midfield partnership which can dominate play week-in-week-out.
Despite those negatives however, there’s some exciting elements of this team which would pose a threat to most teams in the Champions League, let alone the Europa League.
The front four players seem established in their positions. Mason Greenwood has been talked up amongst academy circles for some time now and has certainly stepped up to the plate with his goals and overall contribution to the team.
Marcus Rashford, as well as doing incredible things off the field, is getting better all the time off the left flank and is forming an effective partnership with Anthony Martial who is showing why the club spent so much money on him from Monaco a few years back with 22 goals for the season.
The addition of Bruno Fernandes however has upped the gears on United’s 2019/20 season though, improving the team’s output in the final third – even if some people see it as simply giving the Red Devils a consistent penalty taker.
United have more than one foot in the quarter finals following a 5-0 success over LASK Linz in the round of 16 first leg and with either Istanbul Başakşehir or Copenhagen to come in the next round, it should only be Wolves, Sevilla or Roma that stand in their way of a place in the final.
The outright price however is a little short for my liking to back so will look for some alternative value in the 5/1 with SkyBet on United to meet Inter in the final in the ‘name the finalists market’. That would pit the best defence in the competition against the best attack (in my view) so would be a great final.