When the Europa Conference League was revealed by UEFA, the thought of a third-tier club competition certainly didn’t have the majority football fans around the continent licking their lips in anticipation. And it’s fair to say that, at this stage, most of us are yet to even tune into a game, unless you’re a Tottenham Hotspur fan, of course — in which case, you probably wasted your time anyway.
However, with the group stages done and dusted and a few of the minnows ousted while some larger sides drop down from the Europa League for the knockout stages, hopefully the standard of the tournament will go up a notch and then perhaps it will start to gain a lot more interest in the footballing world.
So, ahead of the play-off round, where the teams that finished second in their Conference League groups will play the Europa League rejects, let’s take a look at who the favourites are to win the inaugural edition of the tournament. Read on to find out more!
Despite claiming he didn’t know what the Europa Conference League was when his side finished third in their Europa League group, Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City are the favourites to win the tournament in the sports betting exchange. The Foxes, who narrowly missed out on Champions League football on the final day of the 2020-21 Premier League season, have been drawn to face Randers in the play-off round and the Danish side shouldn’t prove too much of an issue for Leicester. It’s not yet clear how seriously Rodgers is going to take the tournament, but with the Midlands side struggling domestically, it is a great chance for them to win more silverware and add to their recent Premier League and FA Cup successes.
Having won the Champions League twice and even the Europa League on a couple of occasions, lifting the Europa Conference League probably wouldn’t be one of the greatest honours on José Mourinho’s fantastic CV. However, already out of the running for the Serie A title as Roma lag well behind the leaders, we’re sure the Portuguese manager wouldn’t turn his nose up at adding another winners’ medal to his glittering collection. Despite a shock 6-1 defeat to Norwegian side Bodø/Glimt, Roma topped Group C by a point and they bypass the upcoming play-off round and head straight into the round of 16. Fresher legs could play a huge part by then!
Like Leicester, Marseille will be disappointed that they failed to progress from their Europa League group — finishing third in Group E behind Galatasaray and Lazio. Jorge Sampaoli’s men just weren’t able to carry their Ligue 1 form, which has resulted in them currently sitting second in the table, into Europe’s secondary competition and they paid the price after winning just one of their six group games, albeit drawing four. Against easier opposition though, starting with Azerbaijani side Qarabağ in the play-off round, OM might be able to find their rhythm and with players like Dimitri Payet, Boubacar Kamara and so on, they have the potential to go on and win the whole thing.