Spurs Top Europa List
Spurs, already virtually certain to win their Group (1/100) are 13/2 favourites with Coral to win the Europa League outright, while surprise packet Swansea are now on offer at 16/1.
But the tournament will have a different complexion on it when the teams finishing third in the eight Champions League groups join the party in the New Year and that octet may well include Celtic, who did their cause no harm at all when beating Ajax 2-1 on Tuesday, although they will not have given up on making it to the knock-out stages again.
Spurs have won the competition twice before, when it was called the UEFA Cup and the final was played over two legs, back in 1972 and 1984,
But after Liverpool enjoyed their third triumph in 2001 when beating Alaves 5-4 in one of the best ever finals, the Europa League eluded British clubs until Chelsea won it last year, despite honourable near misses from Celtic, Rangers, Middlesbrough and Fulham.
As one of six clubs with realistic chances of winning the Premier League, Spurs command respect from the rest of Europe, but there will be stiff challenges to come, perhaps more from clubs in Celtic’s position rather than those now involved in the Europa League groups.
As it stands now, Celtic might well be joined in the knock-out draw by Shakhtar Donetsk, CSKA Moscow and Porto, all winners of the Europa League this millennium.
Also lying in third place at the half way stage are Juventus, Benfica, Basel and Napoli, although other teams with fine European pedigrees, like Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund, Zenit St Petersburg, Ajax and Arsenal might also end up playing on a Thursday when the dust finally settles.
Italy dominated this lesser of the two big European club competitions in the nineties, winning it eight times in 11 years, and in Fiorentina (12/1) and Lazio (16/1), they have two credible candidates to go all the way for the first time since Parma lifted the UEFA Cup in 1999.
Serie A looks strong again now and Fiorentina are nicely positioned in fifth place after beating high-flying Juventus 4-2, thanks in no small part to a 14-minute hat-trick from former Manchester United striker, Giuseppi Rossi, seemingly right back to his best after a series of knee operations.
These and other European heavyweights could be on the agenda for Spurs and Swansea later in the tournament and also, of course, for Wigan (100/1) if, as expected Owen Coyle’s Championship side make it through their qualifying group into the last 32, which will be a fine achievement in itself.