The Europa League has reached the semi-final stage and the four teams still standing in the competition – Manchester United, Olympique Lyonnais, Ajax Amsterdam and Celta Vigo are all in action this week.
It is the English side who are Betfair Sportsbook’s 4/5 (1.80) favourites to secure the silverware in this month’s final in Sweden. When the campaign kicked off, the Europa League was considered, in some quarters, to be a distraction for Jose Mourinho’s men as they looked to mount a credible challenge for the Premier League title – a competition that they last won back in 2013.
Things have not gone entirely to plan for Mourinho’s team on the domestic front, however. Despite winning the League Cup against Southampton, United are out of the title race and the men from Manchester face a ferocious fight with Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal for the two remaining Champions League places, with Chelsea and Spurs almost certain to occupy the top two positions in the Premier League.
Winning the Europa League, of course, offers entry into next season’s Champions League and that is where Mourinho and his charges want to be. As such, United have taken the competition seriously and they are worthy favourites to taste success in this tournament for the first time in their history.
United’s path to glory, however, is not straightforward. Season-ending injuries to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo, sustained in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht, represent a serious blow and Mourinho’s squad, whilst packed with quality, could find itself stretched at a critical point of the campaign.
Lyonand Ajax both began the season in the Champions League but, having come up short in that competition, they have dropped into the Europa League and will meet in what promises to be a fascinating semi-final fixture.
The price for Peter Bosz’s side, arguably, represents best value, for the Eredivisie side will feel that their imperious home record will give them an outstanding chance of, at least, taking their place in the showpiece final in Sweden later this month.
Celta Vigo are the least fashionable of the teams to reach the final four, but with one La Liga side guaranteed a place in the Champions League final, Eduardo Berizzo’s men will be desperate to showcase the strength of their domestic competition by reaching the Europa League final.
The La Liga team have never reached the final four of this competition before and they will be determined to make the most of this chance, but it will take an outstanding effort to see off Manchester United in their semi-final showdown with Jose Mourinho’s team; Celta Vigo are available at 15/2 (8.50) with Betfair Sporsbook to go all the way.
The first leg of both semi-finals will kick off this week and all four teams will all, undoubtedly, believe that European glory is within their grasp.