Europa hopes

Sky Bet look at the chances of a British or Irish side triumphing in this season's Europa League ahead of the start of the group stages

By Tim Clement.   Last Updated: 15/09/11 10:35am

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While the majority of UK and Ireland's representatives eagerly anticipate testing themselves against Europe's elite, joint-favourites Tottenham are just hoping to make it home unscathed.

Sky Bet Odds

Fancy an English side to win the Europa League? We offer 6/1 for any of the four representatives to lift the trophy. Bet here.

Harry Redknapp has described his side's trip to PAOK Solinika as a "nuisance" as he looks to prepare a team for the visit of Liverpool on Sunday, a fixture he sees as potentially decisive in getting Spurs back in to the competition they really want to be in - the UEFA Champions League.

In contrast, FA Cup runners-up Stoke, Carling Cup winners Birmingham and Fair Play champions Fulham will be looking to take their fans on a European journey to remember.

Irish champions Shamrock Rovers enter the history books as they become the first Irish club to feature in a UEFA competition's group stage, while Celtic are somewhat fortuitous to be in the competition after FC Sion were expelled.

Having had to settle for a return to Europe's second-tier tournament, Tottenham are Sky Bet's joint 9/1 favourites to win the Europa League despite Redknapp's evident reluctance to make the competition a priority.

Redknapp even omitted star midfielder Rafael van der Vaart from his initial squad for the group stages despite the Dutchman expecting to be fit for Spurs' second group match, while the majority of the side which won 2-0 at Wolves will not be risked.

The online bookmaker have actually pushed out Spurs' price for their trip to Greece, from 11/10 to 5/4, with squad players such as Giovani dos Santos and Roman Pavlyuchenko likely to be given a chance, but they remain joint-shortest with big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.

England's next best hope looks to be Stoke, who bolstered their squad with three significant deadline day signings in Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios and Cameron Jerome, but remain significant outsiders at 28/1.

Sky Bet Odds

Peter Crouch is 15/2 to score the opening goal against Dinamo Kiev. Bet here.

The Potters kick-off their campaign with a tricky 11,000-mile trip to take on Dynamo Kiev, where they are the 7/2 outsiders to win.

Tony Pulis' men may be setting off on a European adventure for the first time in 37 years, but with Crouch - who scored four goals in the UEFA Champions League last term - in their ranks, and a well-organised side all-round, Stoke look poised to cause plenty of problems.

2009/10 finalists Fulham continue their Euro trail with the visit of FC Twente, where manager Martin Jol once plied his trade in his playing days, and are evens for victory in the ninth match of their European campaign.

Sky Bet Odds

Can Fulham go a step further than their 2009/10 final defeat to Atletico Madrid? They're 33/1 to win the Europa League. Bet here.

Birmingham complete England's list of four entrants, the highest representation of any nation, and begin the slightly bizarre task of hosting last year's finalist Braga despite now being a Championship side following their relegation.

Meanwhile, it looks a baptism of fire for Shamrock Rovers as their supposed home comforts are made somewhat less comfortable by the challenge of hosting the last side to win at Barcelona in Europe - Rubin Kazan.

The Irish champions are 5/1 outsiders to overcome the 2009 Russian champions, 66/1 to win their group which also contains Spurs and POAK, and 1000/1 to triumph in the final at the new National Arena in Romania.

Lady Luck may have smiled on Celtic with Sion being kicked out of the competition for fielding ineligible players during their play-off defeat, but she has not smiled on them with the group draw, which sees them face Udinese, Atletico Madrid and Stade Rennais.

The Hoops are 13/2 outsiders to triumph in their opening trip to Atletico, who have summer arrivals Diego, Arda Turan and Falcao on board, but can take slight comfort from their hosts failing to win in their opening two La Liga games, failing to score in both.

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