As Premier League Winds Down, European Championship Takes Center Stage This Summer
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Unlike some sports in America, the soccer season never really ends.
When the Premier League finishes on May 23, most likely with Manchester City as the new champion (you could have got the Cityzens at plus-money odds in October), there will be the two UEFA finals (Europa League on May 26, Champions League May 29), and then about 10 days off before the Euro 2020 tournament is finally played a year late.
But we still have some things to figure out in the Premier League over the next month. While Manchester City is almost certainly (barring an epic collapse) going to win the league, and Manchester United (11 points clear of fifth place West Ham) will most likely finish second, the places behind those two are up for grabs.
Why is that important? The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for next season’s lucrative Champions League (even more lucrative now after the Super League idea was quashed), while fifth place, and maybe sixth and seventh place, will go to the Europa League and/or the new Europa Conference League.
Right now, betting sites have third place Leicester City as a prohibitive favorite to end the season in the top four (after Manchester United at odds of -50000), with odds of -200, according to some British bookies. But the shock comes next, as the books have seventh place Liverpool as second choice at odds of -137, ahead of Chelsea (-125) and West Ham United (+350), and way ahead of Tottenham (+800), all teams ahead of the Reds in the table.
Do the sports books know something we do not? Liverpool has not been great this season, especially after the calendar turned to 2021. But the Reds do have a relatively easy run-in, so could build some momentum.
With all the chaos of the failed Super League coup behind us, players from the big teams will all be involved in the European Championship as well. Portugal is the reigning champion from 2016, after a 1-0 added extra time victory over France. France went on to win the 2018 World Cup, which had six of the eight quarterfinalists from Europe.
So this should be a very competitive tournament.
Currently, sports books have 2018 World Cup semifinalist England as the co-favorite with France at odds of +550, with FIFA/Coca Cola world number one Belgium the third choice at +600.
Germany (+700), reigning champion (and 2019 Nations League winner) Portugal (+800), Netherlands (+900), and Spain (+900) are the other teams below 10-1, with Italy at +1200.
This is really like betting the Kentucky Derby: there is value everywhere. I am partial to France, and Les Bleus’ odds will drop if they get out of the Group of Death. If you are looking for a team down the board, go with Italy: this is a solid team, and the Italians could surprise here. But this will really come down to the knockout stage matchups, which will be hard to predict until the group stage plays out in full.
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