For Scottish football fans hoping that this year’s Europa League is going to be a catalyst for the renaissance of Scottish teams in Europe, it has to be said that the bookmakers aren’t showing much enthusiasm about their prospects.
Carl Bentley, a writer for the UK sports betting site playright.co.uk, doesn’t forecast either Celtic or Rangers making much of an impact on this season’s competition, despite reasonable starts to their respective campaigns.
Celtic, of course, come to the Europa League after failing to get through the qualifying stages of the Champions’ League (perhaps unsurprisingly, as they were priced at 1500-1 to win the tournament). Despite good performances against Armenian side Alashkert (winning 6-0 on aggregate) and Norwegian champions Rosenborg, taking the tie 3-1, the Bhoys stumbled against AEK Athens in the third qualifying round, losing 2-3 on aggregate, a particularly disappointing result considering they dominated and played against 10 men for much of the home leg in Glasgow.
Brendan Rodgers’ men have also been disappointing in most observers’ eyesin their first two games in Group B in the Europa League. The home win against Rosenborg came courtesy of a late goal by Leigh Griffiths, but this was followed by a 1-3 loss away against Red Bull Salzburg, despite Odsonne Edouard putting the Bhoys ahead in the second minute.
So what do the online bookmakers make of Celtic’s chances of progressing in the Europa League? You can currently get a best price of 8-1 on Celtic wining Group B (behind both Salzburg and RB Leipzig), and as much as 100-1 on the Bhoys taking out the title at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan on 29 May 2019. If they did manage to surprise just about everyone and win the Europa League, it would surely have to rank right up there with Celtic’s greatest ever performances in European football.
After finishing 3rd in the Premiership in 2017-18, Rangers went straight into the Europa League qualifying rounds. The progress of Steven Gerrard’s side in these games was solid, if unspectacular. Wins against Shkupiof Macedonia (2-0 on aggregate), Croatian side Osijek (2-1) and Mariborof Slovenia (3-1), saw them get to the play-off against Russian club Ufa. A 2-1 aggregate win then put Gers into the very strong Group G, with Rapid Wien, Villarrealand Spartak Moscow.
The first round of the group stages saw Rangers come away with a very creditable 2-2 away draw against Villareal, after going a goal down in the first minute. Canadian international Scott Arfield levelled the scores before Gers fell behind again, but Kyle Laffertysalvaged the draw with a goal 15 minutes from time.
The second round, however, saw Rangers score one if its most impressive recent European wins, beating Rapid Wien 3-1 in Glasgow. The win was particularly promising as they fell behind just before half time; however, Alfredo Morelos levelled the scores soon after before James Tavernier scored from the penalty spot in the 84th minute. Morelos then settled the tie with a third goal in injury time.
Rangers’ impressive start in Group G has seen them installed as second favourites to win the group, behind Villarreal, at a best price of 5-1. However, there is little optimism being shown by the bookies for Gerrard and his men going all the way; the best price you can get on Rangers winning the Europa League is 150-1, although some online sports books have them priced as low as 80-1.
In the case of both Glasgow clubs, the bookies seem fairly confident that the Europa League trophy won’t be coming to Scotland in 2019. In terms of the overall betting, Chelsea are favourites at 5-1, with Arsenal at 7-1 and Sevilla next in the betting at 20-1. Given their European experience and pedigree, AC Milan might represent the best value bet, at a current best price of 22-1.