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The inaugural Europa Conference League has progressed to the knockout phase. Although the competition has been mocked in some quarters for creating an unnecessary third tier of European club football, those in the knockout stage will be harbouring aspirations of winning the competition and securing an immediate place in next season’s UEFA Europa League.
It’s an opportunity for teams from the lesser-ranked UEFA member associations to try and make their mark higher up the continental football pyramid. This is certainly the case in nations where European qualification places are very much at a premium. Nevertheless, some of the leading clubs in the Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Eredivisie still find themselves in the competition. Who are the most likely teams to be lifting the Europa Conference League trophy for the first time and bagging the €5m first prize?


Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma side are head and shoulders above the rest in the Europa Conference League betting markets. They are the outright favourites to win the inaugural competition. They finished top of their group, despite a jaw-dropping 6-1 hammering at Norwegian side FK Bodø/Glimt in Matchday 3. Roma averaged three goals per game in their six group stage matches and Mourinho will be keen for his team to stamp their mark on the knockout phase too.
They are awaiting the outcome of the Knockout Round Play-Offs before their round of 16 opponents will be revealed. Mourinho arrived in Rome with a remit to bring trophies back to the Italian capital. The Portuguese told the Italian media recently that his new “dream is to win the Conference League” and help to “write a little piece of history” by winning the inaugural competition.

Leicester City

Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City are second favourites with the bookmakers to lift the first Europa Conference League trophy. The Foxes have made appearances in the Champions League and Europa League in recent years, so they are well-versed with competing on European fronts as well as domestic fronts. In the 2016/17 season, City made the quarter finals of the Champions League, after qualifying for Europe’s premier competition through their staggering achievement of winning the 2015/16 Premier League. This unprecedented title still goes down as one of the biggest underdog successes in football history, having started the season as 5,000/1 rank outsiders for the championship at the start of the season.
Turn the clocks forward to 2021/22 and the Foxes find themselves entrenched in mid-table, some nine points behind the Europa League qualification place after 18 league games. Rodgers and co. will therefore view the Europa Conference League as a golden opportunity to continue their European journeys for a further year. Danish minnows Randers stand between Leicester and a place in the last 16.


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Olympique de Marseille remain one of the most prestigious clubs in French football. Despite the mega riches splashed by Paris Saint Germain (PSG), who reached the knockout stages of the Champions League once again, Marseille still have an impressive reputation throughout the continent. They are another team with aspirations to claim the first Conference League trophy. They are one of the eight teams entered into the Preliminary Knockout Play-Off having finished third in their Europa League group.
Marseille have been drawn against Azerbaijani side Qarabağ in their two-legged play-off. Qarabağ are regular fixtures in the Europa League group stages and will be tough nut to crack. If Marseille can do so comfortably, they will be well placed to advance to the latter stages of the Conference League.

PSV Eindhoven

Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven are another side that failed to emerge from the Europa League group stages and are battling to reach the knockout phase of the Conference League instead. They face a tricky two-legged encounter with Israeli outfit Maccabi Tel-Aviv, with a trip to the capital of Israel always a hostile test.
Domestically, PSV Eindhoven are in great shape, sitting atop the Eredivisie after 18 games, a point clear of bitter rivals Ajax. That alone is a magnificent achievement considering how imperious Ajax have been so far this term, conceding just four goals in their opening 18 Eredivisie fixtures. PSV have plenty of firepower, with emerging talents like Noni Madueke, Cody Gakpo and on-loan Brazilian forward Carlos Vinícius within their ranks.