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UEFA Europa League 2017-2018 Top Three Favourites

The UEFA Europa League has long been regarded as a lesser version of the Champions League, but now this competition has grown in importance because the winner gets automatic qualification for next season's Champions League group stage. With that qualification at stake, some big teams in Europe's biggest leagues treat the Europa League as a competition worth winning. Take last season, for instance, Manchester United finished sixth in the Premier League and missed out on Champions League qualification, but they earned their spot in the group stage after winning the Europa League following the 2-0 victory over Ajax Amsterdam in the final. With the knockout stage of the competition about to kick off, we'll have a look at the teams that the bookmakers see as favourites to win the trophy this season.

Atletico Madrid (Spain)

Atletico Madrid will most likely finish inside the top four in LaLiga this season and earn their qualification for next season's Champions League, but winning a European trophy would surely please the club's fans. They dropped out of this season's Champions League as they finished third in Group C behind Roma and Chelsea after having won just one of their six group matches. However, that third place allowed them to continue in the Europa League and they are now the top favourites to win the competition with most bookmakers having them at 4/1 to win the trophy. Atletico will have to face Danish side FC Copenhagen in the first knockout round, not exactly a tough tie for the Spanish outfit. Moreover, Atletico now has striker Diego Costa back in the team and he could make quite a difference in the second half of the season.

Arsenal (England)

The Gunners are having yet another underwhelming season under manager Arsene Wenger, they are outside the Premier League top four at the moment and seem to be heading towards another season without Champions League football. The Europa League looks like their best chance of reaching the Champions League at the moment and the club will most likely focus all their efforts on this competition in the second half of the season. The Gunners cruised through the group stage in the Europa League; they finished at the top of group H even though the first-team regulars were rested on those matches. Arsenal will take on Swedish side Ostersunds in the first knockout round, an easy enough task for Wenger's men. Most bookmakers see the Gunners as 11/2 favourites to win the Europa League this season.

Napoli (Italy)

Napoli has done a pretty good job in the Champions League this season, but they were quite unlucky to be drawn in the same group as Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk. Napoli finished third in the group behind those two sides and now they prepare to face German side RB Leipzig in the first knockout round. That will probably be one of the most exciting ties of the round, but if Napoli pulls through then, they could easily go all the way as they have enough quality in the squad to fight both in the Serie A and the Europa League. The bookmakers have Napoli as 10/1 favourites to win the competition this season.

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Get the double-sided 92 Club & National League map poster - 2020/2021 season