The favourites are clear as the fourth and final Europa League qualifying round is wrapped up, with Liverpool leading the charge for the main draw
|By PAUL GOUGH
It looks like punters will have to settle for short odds on Thursday, when the fourth and final qualifying round of the Europa League concludes.The big guns from England, Italy and Spain expected to cruise through to the group stage, beginning in September.
The pick of the 30 ties is the second leg of the 'Battle of Britain', with English Premier League giants Liverpool hosting SPL battlers Hearts at Anfield.
And while the Reds looked vulnerable ahead of the opening leg in Edinburgh, after their 3-0 loss to West Brom on the opening day of the EPL season, Brendan Rodgers' team have been much-improved since then.
Not only will Liverpool head back to Anfield with a 1-0 lead from the first leg at Tynecastle - courtesy of an Andy Webster own-goal in the 78th minute - but they should have beaten reigning EPL champions Manchester City on Monday, with City lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw.
As a result, Liverpool are much shorter heading into the second leg than they were before the first leg, with the Reds at $1.18 at online bookmakers Luxbet to beat Hearts in the return leg, with the draw at $6 and Hearts at $12.
Fellow EPL club Newcastle are almost as short at $1.30 to win their second-leg home tie against Greek club Atromitos ($9.25), who surprisingly held the Alan Pardew's side to a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg.
Luxbet's Andy Scott told Goal.com punters could not see either Liverpool or Newcastle losing at home in the second leg and both teams have been heavily backed at the short odds, along with Italian club Lazio.
|Athletic Bilbao to win v HJK Helsinki at $1.57 at Luxbet
||Feyenoord to win v Sparta Prague at $2.85 at Luxbet|
Lazio are the shortest-priced favourites of the night at $1.11 to win their second-leg home tie against Slovenian side NK Mura, with the Serie A already leading 2-0 from the first leg.
Similarly, Inter Milan already lead 2-0 against Romanian side Vaslui after winning the first leg on the road and are $1.18 favourites at Luxbet to win the second leg, with Vaslui at $11.50.
And Spanish club Levante are only slightly longer at $1.19 to win at home in the second leg against SPL club Motherwell at $11.50, having also won the first leg away 2-0.
But the bookies are being more generous with another Spanish club Athletic Bilbao.
Athletic Bilbao, runners-up in this competition last season, are great value at $1.57 at Luxbet to win their second-leg clash against HJK Helsinki away from home - especially considering they won the first leg in Spain 6-0 - with the home side at $4.85.
But while it is shaping as a lop-sided night of action in the Europa League, the most evenly-placed tie is between Czech club Sparta Prague and Dutch giants Feyenoord, after the clubs drew 2-2 in the first leg in Rotterdam.
Sparta are favourites at $2.30 at Luxbet to win the second leg at home and progress to the group stage, but the Dutch club - winner of both its away games in the Eredivisie so far this season - look great value to win away at $2.85 at Luxbet.