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Europa League Predictions Today
Who Will Win The Europa League
By Paul Seaton
The 2016/17 Europa League final will be held at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Perhaps that 'friendly' element is an apt one, as UEFA's secondary tournament has often endured, rather than enjoying a sparkling reputation. There are big names in the mix, however, and with the winners guaranteed a place in next season's UEFA Champions League, there is even more at stake than the trophy.
One important point is that the pool of teams is not yet set. Teams who finish in third position in the Champions League groups will be assured of a place in the Europa League after the group stage is completed.
Manchester United go into the tournament as red-hot favorites at +500, some way in front of second-favorites Roma, who currently sit at +900.
So is the early betting trend worth following? We don't think so. The first English European Champions last won a major trophy on the continent when they defeated Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final. Watch the highlights from that epic evening right here and relive the glory:
So, with such glorious memories, why are the Red Devils not potential Europa League champions under Jose Mourinho?
Well, they've never won the 46-year-old competition in any of its forms, but the reason they won't this year is that Mourinho is utterly focused on league matters.
He will not allow the Europa League to distract his players, and while the record-breaking holders of 20 Premier League titles won't struggle to beat their group opponents in Feyernoord, Fenerbahce and Zorya Luhansk, they will not take the trophy.
Come April and May, you can bet every cent you earn that Mourinho would swap any competition to be leading the race for the Premier League title. It is going to be a season-long pursuit that overtakes any other tournament. Then again, this is United so their fringe players may just be good enough to get them into the semifinals.
We've taken a long look at the alternatives to United in the chasing pack and one name stands out. Inter Milan (+1400) may lag behind Roma (+900) in the betting, but we rate them as a much better prospect for success.
Let's cast our minds back to their most recent night of European triumph when they ruled the world of club football in 2010. Jose Mourinho (him again) led them to the Champions League victory.
Not solely to revel in the heroics of Milito, Cordoba and Cambiasso, Inter Milan will point to that 2010 side as an indication of how they might take the trophy in this season's Europa League.
Their group of Hpoel Be'er Sheva, Sparta Prague and Southampton will only provide stiff competition on the South Coast at St. Mary's. With the additions of Antonio Candreva, Gabriel Barbosa and perhaps most importantly, Joao Mario, I Nerazzurri will become a force again at home and abroad. If they win the Serie A as well as the Europa League, Inter really will be back.
An Outsider Peeks In
We've told you which horse to lay (Manchester United) and which could romp home (Inter Milan). But which runner could sneak up unnoticed on the outside rail?
Well, the Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg have a great squad and find themselves in the Europa League instead of the Champions League where they are more than comfortable. They should dominate their group, which includes AZ Alkmaar, Dundalk and M'bi Tel-Aviv. They have pace, width, a natural evolution in their side and, of course, Hulk:
While Zenit are unlikely to crop up on most pundits' radars, they are a stunning +2000 to lift the trophy in Sweden, and if you back them to reach the late stages (an each-way bet would not be a bad idea) and/or Hulk to star in the golascoring stakes, you will almost definitely have a bet with longevity to get behind.
The Russians are very difficult team to break down and, under Mircea Kucescu, have won seven and tied three of their last ten games. They can cause havoc on the counter-attack and Hulk can punish teams from anywher in the final third.
Keep a watchful eye on what teams join the Europa League from the Champions League as they're quite often able, and willing, to do a lot of damage in this tournament.
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