Tottenham and Roma head the betting for the first UEFA Europa Conference League, but are they worthy favourites? Jake Pearson picks out his best bets for the competition.
2pts Tottenham to win the Europa Conference League at 7/1 (Sky Bet)
2pts Roma to win the Europa Conference League at 8/1 (Bet365)
The inaugural running of the UEFA Europa Conference League, in all its glory.
For many in England, particularly those less than fond of Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA’s third club competition is seen as something of a joke tournament, a Mickey Mouse Cup, for want of a better phrase, but for many teams involved in this competition, it is deadly serious, and a huge achievement just to be part of.
Take Lincoln Red Imps for example, a Gibraltar-based club that share their ground with not only other local teams, but also the Gibraltar Music Festival. Not in their wildest dreams did their players envisage themselves playing in a competition like this, facing off against the likes of Copenhagen and POAK, teams with genuine European footballing pedigrees.
Other teams will undoubtedly be taking this seriously as well. For the likes of AZ Alkmaar, Feyenoord, Basel, for example, this represents a real chance for them to win a European cup and go down in their club’s history.
Odds correct as of 17:10 (07/09/21)
For Spurs though, it still feels like a punishment rather than an opportunity.
The only competitive game Tottenham have lost this season came in qualifying for this tournament, a 1-0 defeat away at Portuguese side Pacos Ferreira.
That game perfectly encapsulated Tottenham’s attitude towards the tournament, with Nuno Espirito Santo changing all eleven players from the previous weekend’s victory over Manchester City, but the return leg was taken far more seriously, demonstrated mainly by the inclusion of Harry Kane in the starting line-up.
Spurs are the best team in the competition, but can they be relied upon to field their strongest line-up throughout?
Winning the group is imperative, as the runners-ups go into a play-off with the third-placed teams from the Europa League group stage.
This adds another conundrum when putting up an antepost tip for this competition, as halfway through a dearth of potentially better teams will drop out of the Europa League and into the Conference League, skewing the prices. But we can only focus on what we know for now.
Super club or not, Tottenham are the best team in the competition at present. They boast a plethora of attacking options, including arguably the best striker in world football in Harry Kane, and three clean sheets in three matches this season, including against champions Manchester City, suggests Nuno may have succeeded in suring things up at the back.
They deserve to be favourites for the competition, even if their group could have been slightly easier - containing the tournament third-favourites Rennes.
Backing Tottenham is in one part placing faith in Nuno taking this competition seriously, but even if Spurs only scrape out of the group, once in the knockouts, silverware is silverware, and it would be dangerous for Spurs’ new coach to crash out of a competition that his side really could win.
TOTTENHAM are at the head of the betting for a reason, player-for-player they have the best squad, and strictly speaking, they should be shorter than the 7/1 on offer with Sky Bet.
Roma have made the perfect start to the season under ex-Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho, sitting joint-top of Serie A after winning both of their opening matches.
They have scored seven goals and have conceded just once, creating plenty of chances in both games.
A title challenge is probably beyond Roma, though it can never be completely ruled out with Mourinho at the helm, but one thing is for sure, the Portuguese coach will not take the inaugural running of the Europa Conference League lightly.
For a man who has won 25 trophies, winning is an obsession.
In terms of their group Roma could hardly have asked for a better draw, the other three teams in Group C all bigger than 50/1 to win the competition.
It may feel counterintuitive backing the two favourites for the tournament, particularly given there could be some big-named sides dropping down in a few months’ time, but a top price of 8/1 for ROMA TO WIN makes plenty of appeal.
Spurs and Roma are notably the best teams in this competition, but at prices of 7/1 and 8/1, the layers are offering a combined chance of just over 23% that either side hold the trophy aloft on May 25th.
That should be bigger, and for that reason, backing both Tottenham and Roma to win the first edition of the UEFA Europa Conference League is the best way to approach this tournament.
Odds correct at 1710 BST (07/09/21)
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