Come Thursday night we’ll know which teams will make up the last four of this season’s Europa League. The second club competition on the continent is reaching its boiling point, and a few days from now the real contenders for the trophy will have to come to the fore as the push for the semifinals reaches its conclusion. Last week saw important wins for Benfica, Basel and Juventus, which saw their respective paths to the next stage become much clearer. A little more up for discussion is the qualification of Porto, who will have to defend their one goal advantage away from home.
Europa League Odds
AZ Alkmaar 80/1
Benfica (4/11 and 1/16 to qualify) took a major step towards reaching the final four when they beat AZ Alkmaar (15/2 and 9/1 to qualify) 1-0 in the Netherlands last week, and will be keen to seal the tie up early on Thursday night to avoid any late drama. Currently occupying the second line of betting to win the tournament outright, the Portuguese leaders will be favourites to get through, and another victory at home will send a strong signal to any future opponents that they are here to win the trophy in Turin in May.
Juventus (1/3 and 1/16 to qualify), who will have the bonus of playing the final at their home venue should they reach that stage are in a similar position to Benfica after having beaten Lyon (9/1 and 9/1 to qualify) 1-0 in France last week. The Turin giants have been excellent domestically this season, but have failed to transfer the dominance into their European performances, but with another Serie A title almost sealed up, they must surely now focus their attention on winning the Europa League. Juve should get through to the semis, but will have to brush up on their performances if they are to live up to their favourites tag.
In the most tightly contested of the four ties after the first leg, Sevilla (5/6 and 7/4 to qualify) host Porto (16/5 and 2/5 to qualify) as they bid to overhaul a one goal disadvantage. Still fighting for a top-four finish in the league, with four wins from the last five, Sevilla go into the game in good form, but Porto are putting all their eggs into the Europa League basket for silver wear this season, after an indifferent domestic campaign has left them 12 points behind in third. This tie could still go either way, but Porto are marginally the favourites to bring the number of Portuguese side in the last four to two.
Valencia (4/7 and 6/1 to qualify) have it all to do when they host Basel (17/4 and 1/10 to qualify) after going down 3-0 in Switzerland, and you feel the Swiss side have done enough to consider themselves through after the performance. Valencia aren’t the side they were a couple of years back, and it is difficult to see them getting through. The 4/7 for the second leg win doesn’t offer great value, though the 16/5 offered for the draw might tempt more than a punter or two.
Check out the official Europa League website to keep up with the latest news and results coming from the tournament.