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Chelsea’s Europa League Odds Look Way Too Short

Most Chelsea fans need no explanation as to the pitfalls of taking the Europa League too seriously or not seriously enough at this stage of the season. Everyone expects there to be a dash of experimentation, a chance to both give youth a chance and players a rest when drawn against sides like Malmo. Sure, Maurizio Sarri will give the Swedish champions a lot of respect, and rightly so, when they meet in mid-February, but he will appreciate it that it’s a balancing act between respecting Malmo and the reality of being in several different league and cup competitions.

Of course, as Sarri found out with his Napoli side last season, managers can push their luck in the Europa League when playing second-string sides too deep into the competition. But to get that balancing act right, you need a little good fortune. Moreover, it’s a tough competition to win, whether you play a full-strength team or not. So, the question begs – why are Chelsea’s Europa League odds so low?

Chelsea favourites with all bookmakers

Chelsea are unanimous favourites for the Europa League, with odds of 4/1 cited across the board cited by established bookmakers and some of the best new betting sites. Arsenal are second-favourites at 6/1 (Bet365), with Napoli right behind at 7/1. The order seems about right, although some punters would likely have Napoli ahead of Arsenal or even Chelsea. But, objectively, 4/1 seems very short for Sarri’s men at this stage of the competition.

Indeed, when you go further down the list of teams capable of winning the Europa League, you see that objectively Chelsea don’t look like great value: Consider the likes of Inter Milan (11/1, Unibet), Valencia (25/1, 888sport), Bayer Leverkusen (35/1, 188Bet) or Shakhtar Donetsk (40/1, Betfred). All teams that have the credentials and ambition to win the Europa League, yet so far behind Chelsea in the bookmakers’ eyes it feels like we are missing something.

Up to 16 teams will believe they can win Europa

Certainly, none of this means that Chelsea should not be favourites for the Europa League, nor does it means that The Blues’ chances should be dismissed. It’s rather a slight upon bookmakers for becoming overzealous when it comes to Premier League teams in European competition. Chelsea have a decent squad and, while there is always hope from fans that the team will be bolstered with new signings, Sarri will still have to be careful about when and where to play his important chips.

While most fans expect to see off Malmo without needing to get into top gear, there will be tougher tests on the horizon for Chelsea. Outsides of those teams mentioned above, Chelsea could also potentially face the likes of Sevilla, Lazio, Villareal, Real Betis, Zenit St Petersburg or even a tough trip to Celtic Park in Glasgow in the next round. Any one of those sides would represent tough opposition for Chelsea in the Last 16 or later in the competition, especially if Sarri feels he has other priorities in the league or domestic cups.

The point is that Chelsea’s odds reflect those of a team who are arguably superior to the opposition but also 100% committed to winning the competition. It’s not quite clear if Sarri will start filtering in the first team against Malmo or keep holding back. But, as he learned last year, being one of the best teams in the competition does not guarantee success.

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