The fairytale story of West Ham in this tournament is now over as we shape up for the third edition of Europe’s newest club competition.
Another English side now finds themselves in the running to claim the title this year in the form of Aston Villa.
2023/24 Conference League Winner Odds
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Aston Villa @5/1
Villa went from strength to strength last year after they sacked Steven Gerrard, racking up the second most points in the league from that point and securing their place in the Conference League qualifiers.
They then proceeded to smash Hibernian 8-0 on aggregate to claim their place in the groups.
They also appear to have done well in the draw having to face Legia and Zrinjski while their only major challenge may come from last year’s semi-finalists AZ Alkmaar who succumbed to West Ham here last time out.
Unai Emery also has an excellent record in Europe having won an unprecedented or repeated three Europa Leagues with Sevilla back in 2013-2016.
The manager can certainly handle the strain but one would question how their squad will hold up to the rigours of Premier League football plus midweek action that could ultimately prove their undoing.
Yet at the moment, ahead of the Europa League sides dropping down into the competition, Aston Villa presently sit as one of the best sides in the tourney.
Unsurprisingly last year's runners-up Fiorentina are placed near the top of the betting for this competition.
The Italian side was defeated in the final by West Ham last year and the fans will no doubt be eager to see their side go one better this time round.
They also appear to have done quite well from their draw, being placed in a group with Hungarian side Ferencváros, Serbian’s Čukarički as well as Belgians K.R.C Genk.
Genk are likely the only side to pose a major threat to I Viola as they will hope to emulate last season’s run here.
The squad will also hopefully be used to the workload presented by this tournament, one aspect that holds them in a better state than that of Aston Villa.
Eintracht Frankfurt @10/1
Frankfurt fans faced a dismal season last year, at least in terms of European football, getting knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16.
However, the side does have many things going for them, first and foremost their claiming of the Europa League title a mere two years ago, defeating Ranger in the final.
Their European pedigree is certainly there and something they will hope to channel into this tournament no doubt. The club from the players down to the staff are also used to the midweek responsibilities of these tournaments and will be well-adjusted.
Frankfurt also finds themselves with what is possibly the easiest draw of the group stages, having to face PAOK, HJK and Aberdeen, sides that have historically not gone far in the tournament and will have not faced the likes of Frankfurt before.
This places them well to go deep into the tournament and maybe even lay claim to the trophy.
Lille OSC @12/1
Lille are perhaps most famous for having produced the talent that was Eden Hazard or the present AC Milan star goalkeeper Mike Maginan, but now have a chance to make a name for themselves in the Conference League.
This is off the back of their 5th placed finish in Ligue 1, their best in the last three years having famously stolen the title out from under the noses of PSG back in 2021.
The French side certainly has the talent and is presently one of the best sides in the tournament, but have performed dismally in their European trips of late, something they will want to change.
They too have pulled a great group with Slovan Bratislava, Olimpija Ljubljana and KÍ Klaksvík of whom they are comfortably the best side and should advance with little to no issues.
AZ Alkmaar @12/1
Alkmaar had their hearts broken last year by West Ham in the semi-final stage, and unfortunately, the fans dealt with it badly.
However, they are back and will no doubt bring this fan fervour for their side with them, making an intimidating place to go, or making themselves known on their away trips.
The Dutch fans may well not have been pleased with their draw either as they find themselves in the same group as Aston Villa as well as Legia and Zrinjski.
Whilst they should still be able to comfortably make it through this group, the chance of them securing that top spot is slightly diminished and it means there is little room for error when playing the other sides.
AZ Alkmaar are presently here mainly due to their impressive performances last year, both in Europe and the Eredivisie, but may struggle when it comes to playing those sides that drop down from the Europa League.