This season’s Europa League is already well underway, with the final round of qualifying set to take place over two legs on August 22nd and 29th – and the group stage draw taking place on August 30th. In UEFA Europa League winner betting odds, English Premier League clubs Manchester United and Arsenal are among the outright favourites this season. But what about those still hoping to qualify for the main draw? Let’s take a look at some of the teams most likely to overcome the final round of play-off fixtures to make it.
Kazakhstan club Astana face Belarussian BATE Borisov in the play-offs of the Champions Path, with both clubs having won their respective leagues last season. Astana boast a decent record thus far, with a 4-1 aggregate win over Santa Coloma in the second qualifying round and more recently, a 9-1 aggregate win over Valletta. Last year, Astana made it to the group stage of the Europa League, where they finished third; while they face the team that lost to Arsenal in last season’s round of 32.
Goalkeeper: Nenad Erić is Astana’s captain and has been at the club since 2011. He has made 53 appearances in Europe for Astana and this season in qualifying has kept two clean sheets.
It’s a battle of last season’s fourth-placed sides as Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar take on Royal Antwerp of the Belgian first Division. AZ have kept clean sheets in all of their ties so far – with a 3-0 win over BK Häcken and 4-0 win against Mariupol. Antwerp made it through the last round on the away goal rule, so AZ must be considered favourites for their play-off meeting.
Goalkeeper: Marco Bizot has previous experience of Europa League football, from his time at Belgian club Genk and last season, AZ were knocked out of the competition at the second qualifying round.
Scottish Premiership champions Celtic meet Allsvenskan champions AIK in the Champions path. Their Swedish opponents have already had to play a qualifying round to progress, beating Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol. AIK have flitted between the qualifying rounds of both the Champions League and Europa League in recent years, but Celtic have more experience in Europe and ultimately, should have nothing to fear – particularly given their domestic form so far this campaign.
Goalkeeper: Craig Gordon joined Celtic in July 2014 and since then has played both Champions League and Europa League football for The Bhoys. Despite not featuring in their domestic campaign thus far, with Scott Bain recently sustaining an injury, Gordon’s surely the favourite to start between the sticks.
Eintracht Frankfurt were successful in last year’s Europa League, eventually losing to champions Chelsea in the semi-finals. The Eagles have been rampant this campaign, with a 4-2 win over Estonian Flora and triumphant 5-0 victory over Lichtenstein club, Vaduz. Opponents Strasbourg too, have won both of their qualifying games, but given their run last year and fire-power this campaign, Frankfurt have to be favourites.
Goalkeeper: Kevin Trapp joined Frankfurt in August following a successful loan spell last season from Paris Saint-Germain. Another player with both Champions League and Europa League, Trapp was ever-present for Frankfurt’s appearances in Europe last year.
Espanyol’s opponents Zorya Luhansk haven’t got the best record in Europe, failing to qualify last season and not making it out of the group stages the two years prior. Espanyol have flown through the qualifying rounds so far this season – 7-1 over Stjarnan and 6-0 over Lucern. However, they’re making their debut in the tournament since their final defeat against compatriots Sevilla in 2007.
Goalkeeper: Diego López has been the man between the sticks for Espanyol’s qualifiers so far. He’s played over 50 games in Europe for Real Madrid and Villarreal and also has a Champions League medal to his name (2013-14).