The fiendish punting puzzle that is the Europa League group stage returns on Thursday night and its perennial imponderables of squad rotation and domestic vs continental prioritisation will once again give punters plenty to think about.
Our Europa League best bets for the first round of group stage games focus on two heavy favourites to register statement wins and one home team with a strong recent record against good opponents at this level on their own turf.
Europa League betting tips
Bet on the latest Europa League odds at Betzone
Bundesliga table toppers tipped to tee off on overmatched visitors
Leverkusen have started the season very nicely, winning three of their first four Bundesliga games and drawing the other away to omni-champions Bayern Munich.
The acquisition of Victor Boniface (who scored six times in 10 Europa League games for Belgian surprise package Union St Gilloise last term) looks to have given them an extra cutting edge and the 22-year-old already has five goals in four games for his new employers.
Hacken should be ideal opponents for the Nigerian international to top up his tally in the this competition. They’ve conceded in each of their last six outings and at least twice in four of that sextet. Bayer represent a significant step up and they can stamp their authority.
Soaring Seagulls to continue feelgood factor in first Euro foray
Brighton obliged for us in no uncertain terms at Old Trafford last weekend to continue a superb run of form that has seen them win four of their first five Premier League games, with each of those victories coming by a margin of two goals or more.
The Amex is sure to be rocking on the first European night in the club’s long history and Roberto de Zerbi’s side certainly have the goal threat to treat their fans to a show, having averaged three goals a game so far this season.
AEK won the Greek Super League last term but fell out of the Champions League in the play-off round after being beaten home and away by Royal Antwerp. They’ve won just once in their last six games and should be swept away by one of the best teams in the Premier League.
Ibrox has proven a foundation for Gers to see off better foes
For punters sceptical of the strength of Scottish football the idea of backing Rangers to turn over a team that finished sixth in La Liga last season may seem far-fetched.
Indeed Michael Beale’s side were comfortably beaten by Liverpool, Napoli and Ajax in last season’s UCL group stage. However, prior to that their record in the Europa League at Ibrox had been formidable.
In the 2021/22 competition they won six of their eight home games, taking scalps of the ilk of Champions League regulars RB Leipzig, along with Braga, Crvena Zvezda and Sparta Prague – all beaten by two-goal margin.
Betis have conceded nine times across their last two La Liga away games and could well suffer a similar fate to their Europa League peers listed above.