Spurs are shaky favourites to win the Europa League
Spurs remain clear 13/2 favourites with Coral for the Europa League after returning from north Norway with three more points in Thursday’s Group K tie.
But it has all become a bit of a struggle for Swansea (16/1) and Wigan (100/1) after such promising starts to their European adventures. The Welsh outfit still need something out of their final Group A encounter at St Gallen to be sure of making it through to the knock-out stages, while Championship side Wigan require both final Group D games to go their way if they are to qualify.
Actually, the Europa League market is going to look very different after the final round of the Champions League group matches when the eight third-placed teams are ‘relegated’ to the lesser competition.
At the moment, it’s impossible to be sure who will finish third in any of the groups, but it can be predicted with certainty that the teams who do qualify for the Europa League will be, as an entity, a cut above those who have already been scrapping it out on a Thursday this autumn.
Fiorentina (10/1) and Lazio (18/1), fifth and eight respectively in Serie A, are next on Coral’s list, but they may yet be joined by Italian league leaders Juventus, Napoli (third) and possibly AC Milan, seven times winners of the Champions League. The final will be played at Juventus’s stadium, an added incentive and consolation for ‘The Old Lady’ if they don’t make it through in the main event.
Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, second and third in the Bundesliga, are other big teams who could join the party, albeit (especially last year’s Champions League finalists) reluctantly.
Add names like Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Olympiakos, Benfica, CSKA Moscow and Porto to the mix and it is clear that Spurs will struggle to hold on to their status as favourites once the final make-up of the last 32 is known.
And more to the point, Andre Villas-Boas’s men will need to rediscover their mojo by February if they are going to have a meaningful run in the competition. They pretty much strolled through an easy group, but of course it will get much tougher now that some serious European teams are joining in.
If any of the sides involved in the Europa League from the start is to go all the way, it might be Valencia. Pretty much written off after their shock 3-0 home defeat to Swansea in the opener, the Spaniards have bounced back impressively to top the group and looked a different proposition altogether when turning the tables on Michael Laudrup’s men in Wales on Thursday.