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Who Will Win the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League?
In total, there are 48 teams competing in this season’s Europa League. But the gulf in quality between the tournament’s top sides and the lesser clubs is vast.
A whopping 26 countries will be represented in the group stage, which kicks off on Thursday, October 22. The usual giants from England, Spain, and Italy all feature. But for the minnows from nations like Ireland, Azerbaijan, and Cyprus, getting their hands on the trophy is almost impossible.
So, who are the most likely winners of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League?
If you’re interested in betting on the outright winner of the tournament, I recommend checking out my previous Europa League post. I discuss the bookies’ odds and give my prediction and pick.
But for now, join me as I look at this season’s Europa League frontrunners.
In terms of Champions League wins, AC Milan is the second-most successful team on the planet. However, the Rossoneri hasn’t competed in the UCL since 2013/14. The club has endured a tough period in recent years, but it finally feels as though Milan is ready to shine on the European stage once again.
Of course, Stefano Pioli’s current crop is nowhere near the level of Carlo Ancelotti’s famous side of the 2000s. But the club’s European pedigree undoubtedly puts the Italians among the frontrunners to win this season’s Europa League.
Milan missed out on European soccer altogether in 2019/20, but having finished sixth in Italy’s top flight last term, Pioli’s men secured a spot in the Europa League. Better still, the team has made a perfect start to the new campaign, with three straight clean-sheet victories putting Milan joint-top of Serie A.
Age is just a number but tonight's Match Stats say a lot about our future ? https://t.co/jeiPAOx8cO— AC Milan (@acmilan) October 4, 2020
L'età sarà solo un numero ma i numeri di stasera dicono molto sul futuro ? https://t.co/PSLY3iVBik#MilanSpezia #SempreMilan pic.twitter.com/EeAyPfC8a5
Pioli’s squad is packed with young stars. At just 21, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma already has over 200 first-team appearances under his belt. The addition of 20-year-old midfielder Sandro Tonali has significantly strengthened Milan’s midfield, while 19-year-old Daniel Maldini looks set to continue the family dynasty at the San Siro.
But you can’t talk about AC Milan without mentioning Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Even at the ripe old age of 39, the ageless striker remains a constant threat to opposition defenses. The enigmatic Swede will surely be desperate to mark the twilight of his career with a European triumph.
Spurs have gained an unwanted reputation as nearly men in recent seasons. The club always seems to attract top players and impress on the whole. But when it comes to getting over the line, whether that be winning a trophy or finishing in the top four of the EPL, Tottenham invariably fails.
But with Jose Mourinho now at the helm, it is almost inconceivable that Spurs won’t get their hands on some sort of silverware.
It is no secret that Mourinho finds success wherever he goes. The experienced manager has clinched top-flight titles in England, Spain, Italy, and Portugal and has also won the Champions League with two different clubs. He even led a relatively weak Manchester United team to Europa League glory in 2016/17, so he clearly knows how to get the best out of his players.
A forward line containing Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, and Gareth Bale has the potential to be absolutely devastating. Kane and Son have hit the ground running this season, while the returning Bale will add a different dimension to the team.
If Tottenham’s defensive players can match the level of their attacking team-mates, the English side could go all the way this season.
Bayer Leverkusen has only finished outside of the top five in the Bundesliga in one of the previous 11 seasons. The Germans have been a mainstay in the Champions League in recent times, but they have dropped down into the Europa League this year.
It goes without saying that losing Kai Havertz during the summer transfer window will make life difficult this term. Havertz was Bayer’s best player over the past couple of years, so he will be sorely missed following his €80m switch to Chelsea.
But the arrival of Patrik Schick gives head coach Peter Bosz a different option in attack. The Czech forward notched up ten goals and three assists in an impressive 22-game loan spell with RB Leipzig last season, with Leverkusen swooping in to snatch the 24-year-old from Roma.
However, it could be argued that Bayer’s main strength is at the other end of the pitch. Jonathan Tah and Edmond Tapsoba are widely regarded among the best young center-backs in Europe, while experienced brothers Sven and Lars Bender bring a sense of stability to Bosz’s backline.
Alongside Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Nice, and Slavia Prague in Group C, Leverkusen should qualify for the knockout stages with ease. The favorable group-stage draw could set the German side up nicely for a long run in the tournament.
If you think Leverkusen’s group sounds straightforward, wait until you hear who Arsenal is up against in Group B. The Gunners face Dundalk, Molde, and Rapid Vienna, meaning the group stage should be a walk in the park for Mikel Arteta’s men.
But let’s not forget there are four rounds between the group stage and the final. Arsenal is pretty much guaranteed to finish top of Group B, although navigating through the knockout stages against some of Europe’s top teams won’t be easy.
Still, it feels like the Gunners are the strongest they’ve been for a number of years. Since replacing Unai Emery in December 2019, Arteta has gradually implemented his preferred style of play. The team now has a clear identity, something that has been missing since Arsene Wenger’s heyday.
Arsenal is the favorite with many of the top online soccer betting sites to win the Europa League this season, and with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading from the front, you’d be foolish to write them off.
If new signing Thomas Partey can replicate the form he showed for Atletico Madrid over the past few years, the Gunners will be extremely tough to beat on the European stage this term.
Roma may not be the most likely winner of this season’s Europa League, yet the Italian club still stands an excellent chance of lifting the trophy. Just like Milan, the Giallorossi has struggled to make an impact both in Europe and Serie A in recent years. But Paulo Fonseca’s side is still one of the best teams in the competition.
Only the top four lost fewer Serie A games than Roma last term. Fonseca’s men won seven of their final eight league games in 2019/20, and they have picked up where they left off last season. After holding Juventus to a draw, Roma sealed their first win of the new campaign with a victory over Udinese.
Pedro opened his account for his new club in the win against Udinese, and the experienced forward looks set to play a pivotal role for Roma this term. The Spaniard has won just about every trophy possible, so his know-how is likely to be key.
The Giallorossi was knocked out by eventual champion Sevilla in the Round of 16 last year, but having reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2017/18, Roma is expected to challenge for the Europa League title this time around.
The Foxes are no strangers to success. In fact, some Leicester supporters are still celebrating the miraculous Premier League triumph of 2015/16. But if the club wants to be viewed as a continental big gun, Leicester must carry their domestic confidence into Europe.
Right now, it feels like the Foxes have the perfect chance to establish themselves on the European scene. Although the 2019/20 ultimately ended in failure, Brendan Rodgers guided the club to their highest league finish since the title-winning campaign.
The lure of European soccer has enabled Leicester to attract a number of top-quality players. Belgian internationals Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, and Timothy Castagne have all started the season strongly, while Jamie Vardy has begun the defense of his EPL Golden Boot in style, netting a hat-trick against Manchester City.
But keeping key midfielder Wilfred Ndidi fit could be the difference for Leicester this year. The combative Nigerian has endured an injury-plagued couple of years. However, when he is in the team, the Foxes are a completely different animal.
If Ndidi stays fit and Vardy continues to fire, Leicester will almost certainly go far.
There are plenty more top teams in the Europa League this season. Italian outfit Napoli is among the bookies’ favorites, with Spanish sides Villarreal and Real Sociedad also in contention.
With Benfica flying the flag for Portugal, along with Lille and Nice from France, the 2020/21 Europa League is destined to be a hugely competitive tournament.
Remember, the new campaign kicks off on Thursday, October 22. To keep up to date with all the latest Europa League betting tips, make sure you head over to our soccer picks section.