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No one really asked for it. No one really wanted it. But here we are. Matchday one of the new Europa Conference League. How exciting. I can barely control myself.
What is the Europa Conference League? Well, that’s a great question. You can already decipher from the name that it’s not exactly a tournament to showcase the leading lights of European football – sorry Tottenham – but that’s kind of the point. It’s a chance to celebrate teams and countries that normally wouldn’t be strutting their stuff in a UEFA tournament beyond the early qualification stages of the Champions League and Europa League.
As a result, Spurs are genuinely in with a great chance of being the inaugural winners if they take the competition seriously, although their old friend Jose Mourinho will fancy landing some silverware with his new club, Roma.
Group A: Maccabi Tel-Aviv, LASK, HJK Helsinki, Alashkert FC
Group B: Gent, Partizan, Flora Tallinn, Anorthosis
Group C: Roma, FC Zorya Luhansk, CSKA-Sofia, Bodo/Glimt
Group D: AZ Alkmaar, CFR Cluj, Jablonec, Randers FC
Group E: Feyenoord, Maccabi Haifa, Slavia Prague, Union Berlin
Group F: Copenhagen, PAOK, SK Slovan Bratislava, Lincoln Red Imps
Group G: Tottenham, Stade Rennais, Vitesse, NS Mura
Group H: Basel, Qarabag, Kairat Almaty, Omonoia FC
A total of 32 teams will take part in the group stage after an incredibly convoluted qualification process. The eight group winners will sail straight through to the Round of 16, while the runners-up and the third-placed teams in the Europa League group stage will meet in a two-legged knockout tie to progress.
As the third-tier UEFA competition, the prize for winning the Europa Conference League is not as glamorous as the riches and rewards on offer in the other two. Whichever team prevails in the final on Wednesday May 25 in Tirana, Albania earns an automatic spot in the group stage of next season’s Europa League. Tasty.
Matchday 1: September 16
Matchday 2: September 30
Matchday 3: October 21
Matchday 4: November 4
Matchday 5: November 25
Matchday 6: December 9
The Europa Conference League‘s creation prompted UEFA to put the Europa League on a diet and slim down to 32 teams instead of 48 competing in the group stage.
While four teams from the Premier League and Scottish Premiership reached the Europa League proper, Tottenham are the only team from the UK and Ireland still standing in the new tournament but they had to overcame a first-leg defeat to Pacos de Ferreira in their play-off tie to progress to the groups.
Knockout Round Play-Offs: February 17/February 24
Round of 16: March 10/March 17
Quarter-Finals: April 7/April 14
Semi-Finals: April 28/May 5
Final: May 25
Tottenham are the favourites in Paddy’s Europa Conference League Winner market having edged out Roma for market supremacy at this early stage. Nuno Espirito Santo could probably consider it a job well done if he guides Spurs to silverware in his maiden campaign in the dugout.
Our traders believe Rennes – Spurs’ opponents on the first matchday of the group stage – are the next best of the 32 teams ahead of Feyenoord, Union Berlin, AZ Alkmaar and Gent. Once the Europa League third-placed teams drop down the market could look quite different…
The rest of Paddy’s Europa Conference League Winner market is priced from 25/1 to 500/1. You can see the prices for each of today’s group stage matches at paddypower.com/football/uefa-europa-conference-league.
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