The Europa League provides us with some of the best football every year. Although always in the shadow of the Champions League, the Europa is the home of underdog stories and second chances.
It is the competition that allows top clubs to give minutes to youngsters, and often sees high-scoring affairs as teams play with freedom. Here are a few post-draw thoughts on the British Europa League teams in 2018/19…
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers impressed in their Europa League qualification. The reward is a group with Villarreal, Rapid Wienna and Spartak Moscow.
It’s not the kindest draw for Gerrard in his first season as a manager in Europe. Villarreal and Spartak are the two favourites to progress, while Rangers are out at 8/1 to make it into the next round.
Rangers have not made it through European qualification since 2011, when they were knocked out of the Europa League in the last 16 my PSV. A difficult start domestically makes it hard to back Rangers for progression.
Celtic lost to AEK Athens in the third Champions League qualifying round. Brendan Rodgers’ side dropped into the Europa League as a result, and were drawn into a tricky group with Leipzig, Salzburg and Rosenborg (who Celtic actually beat in the previous round of Champions League qualifying.)
This European campaign has already been a relative disappointment for the Glaswegian giants. However, even in a challenging group, Celtic are a decent price at 7/2 to go through.
Away form, as ever, is the big concern. It was their downfall in Europe last season and could be again. They desperately need to improve on their draw away to Rosenborg if they are to progress.
SPECIAL: Any team relegated from the Champions League before the group stage to win the Europa League is price at 7/5.
Arsenal got one of the best possible draws. Unai Emery, who has a stellar Europa League record, will face Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag and Vorskla Poltava in the group stage.
Qarabag lost 6-0 and 4-0 to Chelsea in the Champions League last season, while Vorskla Poltava are appearing in the European group stages for only the second time in their history. It will be a massive shock if either side get close to taking a point off Arsenal.
The Gunners are unsurprisingly a short price at 4/9 to top the group. Emery is expected to take the competition seriously, but the prospect of a heavily rotated team when they face Sporting might make you think twice about those odds.
Chelsea are the favourites to win the competition before a ball is kicked. The Blues are matched up with PAOK, BATE Borisov and Vidi for the group phase. The opponents could have been easier, but Maurizio Sarri will be thankful for the relatively short flights.
Sarri is unlikely to name any of his first XI in matchday squads for the group stage. Chelsea have enough strength in depth to cruise this group, but their 1/6 price is clearly way too short to back. This competition could be very significant for Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s Chelsea career.
The 2013 Europa League winners are clearly one of the best teams in the draw. It’s hard to tell if they are good value to go all the way until we know how seriously Sarri will take it, though.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*