The Europa League campaign begins in earnest on Thursday with the first round of group games taking place. In total fans can look forward to a whopping 24 fixtures, but many of them are not going to generate much excitement as games like Zorya v Osterund do not exactly get the pulse racing. However, several top teams are in action, including AC Milan, Arsenal, Everton, Lyon, Lazio, Villarreal and Marseille. Here we analyse the matches that offer value and provide futures tips.
The most important factor to consider here is how seriously each team will take the competition. For example, Arsenal are the second favourites at 8/1 with Bet365, Ladbrokes and a couple of others, but Arsene Wenger is unlikely to rate the competition and may not field a strong side in it. At 8/1 they look far too risky, despite most of the action going on the Gunners. Another important consideration is that teams finishing third in the Champions League groups will drop into the Europa League, so some very strong teams will join the competition just before the knockout stages and many of them will be among the favourites when that happens. After taking that into account, it might be worth looking at some long shots rather than the short favourites and two teams stand out. Hoffenheim were unfortunate not to make the Champions League group stage as they drew Liverpool in the final playoff round. They acquitted themselves well but lost, yet they are still a very good side, having finished fourth in Germany last season. In their last game they beat champions Bayern Munich and they really are going from strength to strength. At odds of 40/1 with Bet365 and 45/1 with other green listed bookmakers, they look great value. Zenit St Petersburg look like another intriguing option at 40/1 with Paddy Power. They are top of the Russian league, unbeaten after nine games, and are always in the top three domestically. It is a brutal away trip for continental teams to face, and they will be a force to be reckoned with if they make the knockout stages.
Hoffenheim have a tough group as they face the rising stars of Turkey, Istanbul Basaksehir, Portuguese side Braga and the plucky Ludogorets, but odds of 23/17 with Bwin on them winning it look really attractive. Marseille have spent heavily recently and have little chance of winning Ligue 1 so they could really go for the Europa League and look a good option at 21/20 with Sun Bets to win a group featuring Salzburg, Guimaraes and Konyaspor.
Value this week
Istanbul Basaksehir spent big this summer on several established stars as they bid to build on last season’s second place finish in Turkey, which left them above heavy hitters like Fenerbache and Galatasaray. They are 4/6 with William Hill and Sportingbet to record a home win against Bulgarian side Ludogorets on Thursday and that looks a good bet. AC Milan are 1/2 to secure an away win at Austria Vienna, which looks a good addition to an accumulator. The Italian team have been very ambitious in the transfer market this summer and have spent £175 million bolstering their squad with stars like Leonardo Bonucci and Andre Silva. Austria Vienna are an
ok side but they have played second fiddle to Red Bull Salzburg in their domestic league in recent times and should be no match for the Italian giants. Bet Victor is offering 5/6 on AC Milan -1 Asian handicap and that looks a very good bet. Spanish side have got off to a flying start to the season by winning three games in a row to sit joint top of La Liga, and they should beat a limited Rosenborg side at home. Real Sociedad -1.5 Asian handicap looks good at 13/14 with 188Bet.