The Europa League was created in 1971 as a second-tier Europe-wide competition for top-tier clubs that failed to qualify for the Champions League. The tournament is played during the club season, with 31 teams qualifying based on performance in their domestic league from the previous season.
Though it is not the coveted tournament as the Champions League, the winner of the Europa League automatically qualifies for the following year’s Champions League competition, increasing the tournament’s value to some of the larger clubs that compete.
Understanding the Europa League Matchups
Clubs are broken up into eight groups of four based on seeded pots, where throughout the fall and winter months, teams play weekday europa league matchups, typically on Thursdays and Fridays. Each team will play six group round games, a home and away tie with each designated group member. You are awarded three points for a win and one point for a draw, and the top two teams from each group move on.
In the spring, the knockout round begins between the remaining sixteen clubs. Each round from this phase, except for the final, is made up of two legs. After each team plays on their home field, the aggregate score will determine who moves on. If there is a draw, extra time will ensue directly after the second match, and if needed, penalties will decide the contest.
Teams who didn’t perform well enough in their domestic leagues the year before from Europe’s top five leagues typically win the tournament and often play lopsided games in the group stage versus top sides from some of Europe’s smallest domestic leagues.
Because of the low-scoring nature of soccer, Europa League odds tend to be small. Teams are rarely favored by more than 2.5 goals, while a line of 0.5 is not uncommon. Because it’s the second-tier European competition, teams from the bigger leagues tend not to play their first-choice squad in group stage matches and instead use the early stages of the tournament to try out new formations and new tactics.
When making Europa League picks, teams from Spain, England, Italy, and Germany fare much better than the rest.