The UEFA Europa League is the ugly sister of the UEFA Champions League, the European club football tournament for teams which did not make the cut for the top competition.
Only about to enter its fourth season as the UEFA Europa League, the tournament evolved from the UEFA Cup, which itself grew out of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. What was a pure knockout competition now includes a group stage in which 48 sides are split into a dozen pools and play six matches – three at home and three away – in a format similar to the one used in the more popular UEFA Champions League.
Twenty-four of those teams will qualify for the knockout phase of this term’s UEFA Europa League, which will kick off in February 2013. The other eight sides which comprise the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League are the eight teams which finish third in the eight UEFA Champions League groups. The additions of former UEFA Champions League participants into the UEFA Europa League mix makes it difficult for ante-post punters to bet with the maximum amount of confidence.
Of the 48 sides taking part in the group stage of this season’s UEFA Europa League, just some of the big names are five-time European champion Liverpool, three-time European champion Internazionale and Atletico Madrid, the defending UEFA Europa League champion after beating fellow Spanish La Liga team Athletic Club 3-0 in last term’s one-sided final.
This season’s UEFA Europa League group stage kicks off on Thursday 20 September 2012 and runs through until Thursday 6 December 2012. The last-32 ties will take place in February 2013. The last-16 clashes will occur in March 2013. The quarter-finals are set down for April 2013, with the semi-finals in April 2013 and May 2013. The Amsterdam Arena, home of Ajax, will host the final on Wednesday 15 May 2013.
Striking a UEFA Europa League winner bet in the first half of the competition is, frankly, a risky exercise because of the tournament’s unusual format. With eight evictees from the UEFA Champions League joining the UEFA Europa League at the last-32 stage, it is quite possible that early-bird punters are betting in a market in which the eventual winner is not even quoted yet. Last term, Ajax, Manchester City, Manchester United, Olympiacos, Porto, Trabzonspor, Valencia and Viktoria Plzen bowed out of the UEFA Champions League and received a second chance in the UEFA Europa League.
Now, none of those eight aforementioned sides went on to win last season’s UEFA Europa League. Indeed, only one of them – Valencia – made the semi-finals. And in the three years in which the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League, only two UEFA Champions League rejects have reached the final of the secondary tournament, with Atletico Madrid going all the way in 2010, defeating Fulham 2-1 in Hamburg.
The disappointment of crashing out of the UEFA Champions League seems difficult for latecomers to the UEFA Europa League to overcome, hence their uninspiring record. So, therefore, it is not the end of the world to place a UEFA Europa League winner bet before or during the group stage, particularly if the odds one procures are over the top.
Whereas English, Italian and Spanish have shared the spoils in the UEFA Champions League for the best part of a decade, only one of those countries has supplied a UEFA Europa League champion in the last 10 years. That country is Spain and there is a rational explanation as to why La Liga teams have won five of the last nine UEFA Europa League finals.
Spanish sides take the UEFA Europa League far more seriously than their English and Italian counterparts because, quite understandably, they view it as their best chance to win a major piece of silverware. Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Valencia got stuck into their UEFA Europa League quests because they knew that they had no chance of beating Barcelona and Real Madrid on their domestic scene.
Euro bookmakers have got Atletico Madrid as this term’s UEFA Europa League favourite going into the group stage, with the Mattressmen as big as 11-1 to win the tournament for the second season in a row and the third time in four years. Unbeaten so far in the Spanish La Liga and motivated to retain the title that it won so impressively in 2011, Atletico is worth an interest at double-figure odds.
Like the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League is a competition that lends itself to match betting specials as opposed to tournament betting ones so stick with accruing free bets or deposit bonuses from bookmakers for now.
Paddy Power (www.paddypower.com), the Ireland-based bookmaker which prides itself on offering more special offers than anyone else, is a good place to bet and its offer to new clients is a good one, with a free 50 British pounds or 50 euros bet up for grabs.
One would expect that Paddy Power will devise similar UEFA Europa League offers to the ones that it is offering on the UEFA Champions League matches featuring British clubs. Find out more about betting with PaddyPower.
Respect strong Spanish sides
The domestic domination of Barcelona and Real Madrid is a factor in the excellent record of Spanish sides in the UEFA Europa League. For the La Liga rivals of Barca and Real, the UEFA Europa League represents their best chance of winning a trophy, hence why Atletico Madrid (twice), Sevilla (twice) and Valencia have won the tournament in the last nine years.
Lay UEFA Champions League rejects
By and large, UEFA Champions League teams which enter the UEFA Europa League at the knockout phase do not have great records and certainly do not warrant the short odds at which bookmakers quote them. One could certainly look to lay them on betting exchanges, especially the glamorous clubs.
Know each team’s UEFA Europa League motivation
It is sad but true that some UEFA Europa League teams do not take the tournament as seriously as they should do. Get a feel for the importance that each side is placing on the competition and value match and futures bets will surface.