Manchester United are very warm 6/1 favourites to lift the Europa League for the first time following the draw for this year’s group stage, and the Red Devils’ lack of success in the continent’s consolation competition isn’t the only reason to steer well clear.
West Ham bowing out before the draw for the second season on the spin, seemingly through disinterest, gives a clear indication of how much of a poisoned chalice the Europa League is perceived to be.
Even the carrot of Champions League football the following campaign is only half dangled, with Sevilla stepping in to take their third Europa League title on the spin after a stint at the top table last term.
The Andalusians’ 3-1 win over Liverpool in last season’s final means they’re back in the big time and don’t attract a quote to lift this prize for the fourth year on the bounce.
However, another third place finish in Champions League group-stage action would likely see Jorge Sampaoli’s side take Europa League favouritism come the second half of this campaign.
That being said, it makes sense to get behind a Spanish alternative at the current prices, considering La Liga has provided eight of the past 12 sides to lift the trophy, with two other finalists over the past decade.
One of them was 18/1 shots Athletic Bilbao, who put the Red Devils to the sword with an incisive passing display under feted former coach Marcelo Bielsa during the 2011/12 campaign, eventually going down 3-0 to a Radamel Falcao-inspired Atletico Madrid side in the final.
Bilbao have consistently posted top-seven finishes since Ernesto Valverde took over from Bielsa in the summer of 2013, with the 52-year-old former forward leading the Basque Country club to fifth last term, just two points behind Villarreal in the last Champions League spot.
The Yellow Submarine dropped down to the Europa League after failing to see off Monaco for a group-stage place in the continent’s top tourney and are 16/1, with La Liga also represented by 33/1 Celta Vigo.
Man Utd have drawn Fenerbahce, Feyenoord and Zorya in Europa League Group A, with Athletic Bilbao getting Genk, Rapid Vienna and Sassuolo in Group F.
Southampton, who are 25/1 to take the prize next May, are set to face Inter, Sparta Prague and Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Group K.