After two weeks of non-stop action, the Europa League is taking a break this week before resuming action in two weeks. We are down to the final 16 clubs, representing 11 UEFA associations, and are about three months from the Europa League final, which will be played at Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan on 29 May.
Before the Round of 32 began, we wrote about some of the odds associated with the clubs still in the tournament, so before we talk about the Round of 16 draw directly, I wanted to take a look back at that and how the clubs fared in the matchups over the past two weeks.
Departed Round of 32 Favorites
Before play began in the Round of 32, we identified the 16 favorites according to FiveThirtyEight. Of those 16 favorites, 10 clubs advanced to the Round of 16. The biggest favorite to lose during the round was Belgium club Genk, who lost on aggregate to Slavia Prague, despite being favored 3-to-1 in the matchup. They lost 4-1 on aggregate to the Czech club, with all the scoring happening in Leg 2… in Genk. Oops. The upset didn’t help increase Slavia Prague’s odds going forward (which we’ll get to in a minute), but I’m sure they and their supporters are happy for at least two more matches in European competition this season.
The other favorites that lost were Real Betis (62% favorite; lost to Rennes), Bayer 04 Leverkusen (58%; lost to Krasnodar), Olympiacos (56%; lost to Dynamo Kyiv), Shakhtar Donetsk (54%; lost to Eintracht Frankfurt), and Viktoria Plzen (51%; lost to Dinamo Zagreb).
New Tournament Favorite
Prior to the Round of 32, we had two co-favorites, with Chelsea and Napoli each having a 14% chance of winning the tournament. Obviously, with no defined path to the final, they could have ended up meeting each other before the final and eliminating each other (which hasn’t happened yet). Before the Round of 16 draw this morning, they remained co-favorites, with a 13% chance. But we have a new favorite in Sevilla, mostly because they were lucky enough to be drawn against Slavia Prague, the lowest-ranked club remaining in the competition (Sevilla is a 9-to-1 favorite to advance to the quarterfinals).
Chelsea maintains its 13% odds after the draw, while Napoli has fallen slightly to 11% (after drawing against Red Bull Salzburg this round). Other clubs with at least a 9% chance of winning include Valencia (13%), Inter Milan (10%), and Benfica and Arsenal (9%).
Round of 16 Favorites
In addition to Sevilla and their 92% chance of advancing to the quarterfinal, there are three other clubs with at least a 70% chance of winning their Round of 16 matchup.
Benfica, took care of business against Galatasaray in the Round of 32 (winning 2-1 on aggregate), and were drawn against Dinamo Zagreb. This increasedtheir odds from 57% pre-draw to 75% post-draw, the third such largest increase. Despite upsetting Olympiacos last round, Zagreb was only given a 29% chance of winning this round before the draw, and this didn’t help – there was only one matchup that would have likely increased those odds (Slavia Prague) – but their advancement odds fell nonetheless.
Arsenal, who lost a Leg 1 match to BATE Borisov last round, also improved their Round of 16 odds after the draw, moving from having a 58% chance of advancing to 73% after they were drawn against Rennes. Rennes struggled a bit last round – they lost two leads in Leg 1 resulting in a 3-3 draw against Real Betis before prevailing in Leg 2 – and that resulted in them having the fourth-worst odds of advancing pre-draw (36%). These odds fell 9% to 27% after their opponent was known, but they host the second leg this time around, so maybe that will help.
Finally, our last big favorite in the Round of 16 is Valencia, who only saw a 6% increase in their advancement odds after the draw was announced. After having little issues with Celtic in the last round, they entered the draw with a two-in-three chance of advancing without even knowing their opponent. In drawing Krasnodar, they drew a club familiar with upsets, but Valencia is a much better club than Leverkusen and should be able to find their way to the Round of 16.
The Matchups and Schedule
Like the previous round, the Round of 16 will feature two legs played a week apart, with the first leg taking place on 7 March. Unlike the Round of 32, however, the clubs were not seeded, so the advantage of hosting the second leg was done by random draw as well.
Here’s how the round shakes out, with the pre-round odds for advancing to the quarterfinals. The club listed first hosts Leg 1, while the other has the pleasure of hosting Leg 2:
- Chelsea (69%) v Dynamo Kyiv (31%)
- Eintracht Frankfurt (37%) v Inter Milan (63%)
- Dinamo Zagreb (25%) v Benfica (75%)
- Napoli (59%) v Red Bull Salzburg (41%)
- Valencia (71%) v Krasnodar (29%)
- Sevilla (92%) v Slavia Prague (8%)
- Arsenal (73%) v Rennes (27%)
- Zenit Saint Petersburg (33%) v Villarreal (67%)
We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with in-depth looks at the matchups, none of which seem particularly close at the moment – only the Napoli/Red Bull Salzburg matchup is within 20% odds wise – but all that the underdogs need is an unexpected win in a home match in leg 1 or a goal or two on the road to help with the tiebreaker. If I had to make a guess, I’d think at least two of the clubs that are currently “underdogs” will be in the Round of 16. It’s just a question of who it will be.
Until next time…