A few surprises marked the first leg of the second round of this year’s Europa League, with a few of the historically bigger names dropping the ball on the first half of the first knock out round of this year’s competition. Lazio, Ajax and Tottenham all fell victims to their first European game of the year, making entry into the second round a little more difficult, though not necessarily impossible, for them – though Ajax’s 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Austrian side Salzburg is no small mountain to climb.
Europa League Odds
(outright winner, top 10)
Shakhtar Donetsk 14/1
Three of the top four favourites for the Europa League at this stage of the competition are Italian, all of whom are likely to make it to the next round, with Juventus (4/7) and Fiorentina (2/9) enjoying 2-0 and 1-3 wins against Trabzonspor (11/2) and Esbjerg (14/1) respectively last week, and likely to set up an all-Italian third round encounter. Napoli (9/20) will have a slightly tougher task as they host Swansea (7/1) after the first leg ended in a stalemate in Wales last week.
Tottenham (13/20) will have it all to do in London as they host Dnipro (5/1) after falling 1-0 last week. The effects of three games in a week took their toll on Spurs at the weekend as they fell at Norwich, but their form has been a bit inconsistent lately, and they will be keen to continue their run as the strongest English team in the competition.
Other teams on the cusp of elimination are PAOK (15/2), who lost 1-0 at home to Benfica (9/20) last week, and Porto (13/10), who will probably have to win in Frankfurt (9/4) following their 2-all draw in Portugal last week. The relatively high number of draws in the first legs last week make the various permutations that little more interesting this week, with away goals coming into the equation.
We’ll have a clearer picture of how the tournament is shaping after Thursday’s second legs, but expect the odd surprise. Our pick of the week is Swansea making it through to the next round. With a 1-1 draw all that is required, the 2/1 for the Welsh side to pass the round is decent value, especially with the up and down form the team from Naples have been going through since the turn of the year, and with an eye to a game against Roma at the weekend their concentration may very well be elsewhere.
Check out the official Europa League website to keep up with the latest from the competition.