With several of Europe’s biggest clubs set to go head-to-head in the Champions League group stage, including Manchester City and Paris Saint-German, Real Madrid and Inter Milan and Barcelona and Bayern Munich, to name just a few, there was cause for concern that the Europa League would be left in its wake even more this season.
However, with the secondary club competition’s group stage draw having now taken place, there is plenty to look forward to, with some big clubs set to clash from the get-go. So, with the Europa League odds starting to take shape on the football betting sites, and the first gameweek on the horizon, read on as we recap the group stage draw…
No strangers to the Europa League knockout stages, having reached the round of 16 for the last two years in a row, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers will be confident of progressing to the knockout rounds once again. Ligue 1 Lyon pose the biggest threat to the 2008 UEFA Cup finalists. However, away trips to Sparta Prague and Brondby could also prove tricky for the Scottish side. Still, you’d fancy the Gers and the French outfit to progress.
Group B looks set to be a tough one to call, with Monaco, Dutch side PSV and Real Sociedad, one of the favourites to win the Europa League in the football betting tips, set to battle it out for the top two spots. Unfortunately for Austrian side Sturm, who have reached the group stage of the competition for the first time since 2011-12, there could be a few long nights in store.
So close to gaining Champions League football last season, missing out to Chelsea on the last day of the Premier League season, Leicester City have had to settle for another year in the Europa League, and they’ve been handed a tough group, with Italian Serie A side Napoli, the favourites to win the competition, posing a real danger, whilst Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw will be no walk in the park.
After missing out on a place in last year’s competition, Eintracht Frankfurt, who reached the semi-finals in 2019 and the round of 16 in 2020, will be keen to go far again this year. Belgian side Antwerp were one of last year’s surprise packages, reaching the knockout stages for the first time since 1990, only to be beaten by Rangers. So, they’ll be hoping to progress from Group D, but Fenerbahçe and Olympiacos are also firm contenders for that second spot.
2017-18 Europa League finalists Marseille, who lost the showpiece match 3-0 to Atlético Madrid, return to the group stages of the competition for the first time in two years, and they’ve been handed a though tie against Serie A side Lazio, who will be hoping to redeem themselves after failing to get out of the group in the 2019-20 campaign. Galatasaray will likely pip Lokomotiv Moscow to third, dropping into the new Conference League.
Red Star Belgrade
Becoming regulars of the knockout stages, having reached the round of 32 for the last two years in a row, Portuguese side Braga will be hoping to go further into the knockout stages this year, but they will be up against it, as they’ve been drawn to face Red Star Belgrade, Ludogorets and Midtjylland — three very evenly matched sides.
Group G looks set to be one of the most exciting groups, with Bayer Leverkusen, Celtic and Real Betis set to scrap it out for the top two spots. The Scottish giants were knocked out of the competition in the group stage last year, and will be looking to get revenge on Ferencváros, who initiated their Champions League exit in the second round last season. Leverkusen are amongst the favourites to win the tournament, whilst Real Betis return for the first time since reaching the first knockout round in 2018/19.
Yet to play in the main competition of the Europa League, as they were stunned in the qualifiers in 2015-16 and 2016-17, West Ham United will be making their group stage debut, and they have a great shot of progressing to the knockout rounds, as they face Belgian side Genk, Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Vienna.