We’re all set for the start of the UEFA competitions for the 2018-2019 soccer season in Europe. I already shared my thoughts on each group of the Champions League and the potential winner of the Europa League.
It’s time to get a bit more specific and take a look at each group in the competition. I will explore what betting opportunities are offered by our top soccer gambling sites and try to find some valuable picks.
I have to admit that this tournament is really tricky. Some of the teams in it are relatively unknown, while many of the clubs from top European leagues have a rather questionable motivation. This makes it a bit harder to predict, compared to the UEFA Champions League, for example.
This is the reason I won’t necessarily add a betting pick for each group out there. For some of them, I will only add my thoughts, because I don’t believe in placing wagers just for the sake of it. You shouldn’t, either.
Still, you can often find some good spots, and this will be my main target. Let’s start with the first three groups in the competition.
Group A Betting Odds and Prediction
Here are the teams in group A and the price for each one to win it.
The obvious favorite here is Bayer Leverkusen, and the bookies seem to agree. The German side has the best players and the highest budget. It’s only natural to expect them to win the group.
However, I would argue that the Bulgarian champions Ludogorets should not be underestimated. The team has a lot of experience in European tournaments and always puts a priority on them, instead of the local league.
I think the other two sides don’t have a shot at winning the group, but they will be fighting for the second spot that provides a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout stage.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at each team.
After a solid 5th place in the Bundesliga in 2017-2018, Bayer Leverkusen will be eager to improve this year. The problem is, I don’t think the side has a better squad. They lost Bernd Leno to Arsenal, as well as Benjamin Henrichs to AS Monaco. This will leave the team weaker at the back.
I’m not sure the new signings such as the young Brazilian Paulinho and Mitchell Weiser, who replaced Henrichs, will have an instant impact on the team.
In fact, the season has barely started, and Leverkusen is already in trouble. The team lost both of its first two games, and I don’t think this leaves much room for experiments. I expect Bayer to prioritize the Bundesliga, which will leave them somewhat exposed in the Europa League.
This is the reason I wouldn’t recommend backing Bayer Leverkusen to win group A. The team is the best in it, but it’s also the only one that has such a strong domestic league.
The Bulgarian champion Ludogorets failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and will be motivated to succeed in Europa League.
The club had regularly featured in the knockout stages of the tournament and has the experience to proceed to the knockouts. On top of that, the main target of Ludogorets is always to perform well in the European league, as the competition in the domestic tournaments is simply not up to the standards of the club.
This is the reason I feel that the club is a threat to Bayer Leverkusen. The problem is, Ludogorets lost Igor Plastun and Virgil Misidjan. Both were starters during the last couple of campaigns.
Still, the price of 6.00 seems a bit on the high end and is probably worth a shot with a tiny stake.
The Swiss side FC Zurich is another team that has the ambitions to fight for a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League. The club won a place in the tournament, despite the shaky performance in the league last season.
The start was abysmal, but after the arrival of Ludovic Magnin, FC Zurich managed to finish in the respectable 4th position. However, the start of this season is hardly impressive, as the team has won only 8 points from 6 games.
One of the main reasons is the lack of firepower up front. FC Zurich has scored just 5 goals in six games, which probably isn’t the biggest surprise when you sell your two main strikers, Raphael Dwamena and Michael Frey.
The only replacement is Assan Ceesay, who’s having a decent start and already has 4 goals in all tournaments, but I don’t think that would be enough.
Despite the price of 9.00 for FC Zurich to win the group, it seems like an impossible task at this point, and I would abstain.
I must admit that I don’t know much about AEC Larnaca, but I do remember the playing career of Andoni Iraola, the manager. He was a solid player for Athletic Bilbao and is building something like a Spanish core in AEC.
Since soccer is on the rise in Cyprus, I wouldn’t underestimate the side. It certainly can win some points in the Europa League, but I still think that reaching the knockouts would be a step too far.
Predictions and Pick
I feel that Bayer Leverkusen and Ludogorets will be the two teams that will progress to the next stage of the Europa League.
The Germans should finish first, but Ludogorets has a shot, too, so the price of 6.00 seems way too tempting to miss.
Group B Betting Odds and Prediction
Here’s what the bookies offer when it comes to the potential winner of group B of the UEFA Europa League.
This group is much closer compared to the previous one, and the odds reflect that. RB Leipzig is the team with the most potential and the main favorite, but the likes of Red Bull Salzburg and Celtic certainly will be eager to fight for the top spot as well.
The only side that looks doomed is the Norwegian Rosenborg. Still, the team could easily win a game or two and mess up the plans of the rest.
Let’s dig a bit deeper and check what the situation is in each of the clubs.
The German side reached the last 8 of the Europa League last season, and the fans will be hoping for something similar or even better this year. The problem is that RB Leipzig looks weaker, at least on paper, after losing one of its best players. Naby Keita was sold to Liverpool, and this is a big loss.
On top of that, the defensive problems of RB Leipzig haven’t disappeared. The team has conceded 5 goals in only 2 Bundesliga games so far, which is a cause of real concern.
However, those issues will be a problem in the later stages of the Europa League when RB Leipzig faces stronger teams. The German side should have more than enough quality to progress to the knockouts.
And yet, the price of 1.83 for RB Leipzig to win this group B seems too low for my taste.
Red Bull Salzburg
When we talk about deep runs in the UEFA Europa League, Red Bull Salzburg is a team that has one of its own. The side was close to actually winning the competition after reaching the last 4 and losing dramatically in extra time.
I would argue that Red Bull was one of the most attractive teams in the competition, scoring for fun but also conceding a lot of easy goals. The big question is if the Austrians can repeat their performance this season.
Red Bull Salzburg lost a couple of important players like Valon Berisha, Duje Caleta-Car, and Valentino Lazaro. There was an attempt to replace them, as many new signings were brought in, and it looks good so far.
The club is leading the Austrian Bundesliga with 6 wins from 6 games and a goal difference of +11. This is an impressive feat, but the competition is hardly that strong.
Still, I feel that Red Bull Salzburg is a strong team that has a shot at winning this group. Considering the struggle of RB Leipzig, the price of 4.00 is certainly tempting.
Celtic completed another domestic double in 2017-2018, and the club was hoping to play in the Champions League this season. Unfortunately, it was dumped by the Greek side AEK in the qualifications, so the Scottish champions will have to play in the Europa League instead.
The manager, Brendan Rodgers, should be somewhat happy with the summer, as the team did lose Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong, but Boyta stayed, and Celtic secured a couple of other promising players like Odsonne Edouard, Daniel Arzani, and Filip Benkovic.
The problem is that the draw in the Europa League hasn’t been exactly kind to the Scottish champions. Both RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg are strong opponents with a lot of experience in the competition, while Rosenborg shouldn’t be underestimated, either.
I feel that Celtic has a shot at reaching the knockout phase, but the first place in the group is beyond the club. This is why the price of 4.50 might seem high, but it doesn’t contain any value.
It doesn’t look good for Rosenborg, as the team already met the third-best side in this group and lost in the Champions League qualifiers. On top of that, the Norwegians are currently in a tough fight for the title in Norway.
I think this is the direction where the most effort will be directed. Still, Rosenborg remains a tough nut to crack, especially at home.
I don’t think the side has a real chance of reaching the next stage of the Europa League, but it won’t be a punching bag, either.
Predictions and Pick
On paper, RB Leipzig has the strongest and most expensive squad in this group, which is the reason why the bookies recognize the German club as the main favorite here.
However, the strong domestic league and the shaky defense make me think that RB Leipzig might actually struggle. Not enough to get dumped out of the Europa League, but probably just enough to finish second.
The team that is best equipped to take full advantage is Red Bull Salzburg. This is a side that is dominating the Austrian Bundesliga and has the confidence of a last 4 run from last season.
The price of 4.00 represents great value, and this is my final pick for group B of the Europa League.
Group C Betting Odds and Prediction
The final group I will cover in today’s post is C. Let’s start with the odds of each team winning it.
Many feel this should be one of the closest groups in the competition, but I have my doubts. The Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg is the favorite, and I actually think the side will have no issues whatsoever reaching the next stage.
All of the other three teams in the group have a chance for the second spot. Bordeaux has the strongest squad, at least on paper, but the other two sides will have the higher motivation and the opportunity to rest their best players for the clashes in the Europa League.
The French team can’t afford this luxury, as the French league is much stronger, and such an approach could lead to all sorts of problems.
Let’s go into more details about each of the teams.
Zenit St. Petersburg
The leader in the Russia league, Zenit St. Petersburg, is certainly a team that has a lot to offer. It has reached the last 16 of the Europa League in the 2017-2018 season and has the ambitions for an even better run this time around.
Zenit managed to keep the core of the squad, while the rejuvenated Artem Dzyuba has returned from his loan in an emphatic fashion. The forward has already found the net 7 times in 8 games and is becoming a focal point of the Zenit attack.
He was also one of the main heroes in the astonishing comeback against Dinamo Minsk. Zenit was 4-0 down after the first leg but somehow managed to win 8-1 after extra time and reach the next stage.
Overall, the performance of the Russian side in the Europa League playoffs was hardly convincing, as they had issues with Molde in the final qualifying round as well.
Still, the team has the potential to improve dramatically, and this is exactly what I expect.
In my opinion, the tough path so far was the result of the early stages of the season and underestimating the opponents. I don’t think this will be the same in the group stages of the Europa League, so the price of 1.91 for Zenit to win this group is quite tempting.
A month or so ago, the situation around Bordeaux seemed quite normal. The club was preparing for the start of the new season, and the manager, Gustavo Poyet, was hoping for a bright start.
However, the board decided to sell Gaetan Laborde against his wishes, and the Uruguayan didn’t exactly agree with such a move, calling the executives “a disgrace.” As a result, he was suspended and then removed from his position.
The whole atmosphere around the club was scattered, and chaos took over. Ricardo Gomes was appointed as the new manager at the beginning of September, and everyone around Bordeaux hopes that he can bring some stability.
The side has won only 3 points from 4 games and is at the bottom of the French Ligue 1, so the situation is tricky.
Under such circumstances, I can’t see Bordeaux winning its Europa League group. The second spot is the best the team could hope for.
After a disappointing 4th place in the Danish league in 2017-2018, FC Copenhagen is eager to win the title in this campaign. It’s all looking good so far, as the side is on top of the table after the first 8 games.
The big question is if this will distract FC Copenhagen from the Europa League. I think the answer is no, as the current situation in Bordeaux provides a great opportunity for the Danish team to actually qualify for the next stage.
I don’t think that FC Copenhagen can win the group, but a second-place finish is not out of the question. This is exactly what the team did last year, and the home form was the key to success. I expect a similar situation this time around.
Many believe that Slavia Prague doesn’t have a good chance of reaching the knockout stages, but I’m not exactly sure if that’s the case.
The team showed a lot of ambition in the summer, as it kept the core of its squad and added a couple of decent signings such as Peter Olayinka, Alexandru Baluta, and more.
As a result, Slavia Prague is prepared to mount a title challenge, and the team is leading the local league after the first 7 games.
Slavia looks balanced, as the team has scored 15 times and conceded only 3 goals so far. I think the team has a real shot at the second spot in this group, but the first would be a stretch.
Predictions and Pick
It’s ironic that this group is easy and hard to predict at the same time. At least that’s how I see it. In my opinion, Zenit St. Petersburg should be able to comfortably win the top spot, as the side has the squad and the ambition to do so. This is why I will pick Zenit here.
As for the second spot, it’s wide open right now. Bordeaux is the best team in terms of quality, but the chaos rules there. The other two sides certainly have the means to finish above the French club, so it’s hard to predict what will happen.
I will keep sharing my thoughts on the UEFA Europa League, so simply follow the blog to see the predictions and picks for the other groups of the competition.
Of course, feel free to share your own expectations in the comments section below!
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