No match fixing required for Juventus in the Europa League

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Despite a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, Bayern Munich still represent something of an unstoppable force in the Champions League and in Juventus, the Germans have their Europa League equivalent.

The Bavarians wrapped up the Bundesliga last week, something which means they can rest key players for the remainder of their domestic fixtures, allowing them to be fresh for the European clashes to come.

It’s a similar story for Juve who are eight points clear of nearest rivals Roma with just seven games to go – a situation that should allow manager Antonio Conte to rotate his team, sparing his biggest names for continental competition.

The hardest test may have already come and gone for 13/10 Europa League favourites too, having dispatched a Fiorentina team in the last round that smashed them 4-2 in the league.

An Andrea Pirlo free-kick in the second-leg proved to be enough to see off La Viola in a tightly contested affair and with Lyon to come, a semi-final place is beckoning.

The French side have lost three of their last four games and meet the Bianconeri with a squad built on young, emerging talent rather than the finished articles on show at Juve.

As such the 8/11 offer on a win for the Italians at the Stade de Gerland makes sense, with Lyon currently 19/5 outsiders for victory and the draw available at 13/5.

The Old Lady are overwhelming favourites to qualify for the next round at 2/13 too with the French side 4/1, with those odds influenced by Juventus’ form at home, with the Serie A champions on a 22-game unbeaten run featuring three draws and 19 wins.

This dominance could prove key with Conte well aware that if they perform effectively in every game played at the Juventus Stadium they will pick up the Europa League trophy – with the final taking place at that ground.

And while the prospect of three back-to-back Scudettos signals the Turin club’s return to the big time, a European title could complete the comeback, with those behind the scenes making no secret of their desire to win the competition following more disappointment in the Champions League.

It’s been 18 years since Gianluca Vialli lifted the European Cup for the club and while the Europa League is a consolation prize, it could pave the way for bigger success.

The previous two winners, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, are competing in the latter stages of the Champions League while Juve’s own 1992-93 UEFA Cup success preceded their 1996 win.

With a squad boasting Azzurri favourites like Gianluigi Buffon, Pirlo and Georgio Chiellini alongside exciting stars like Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez they are also spoilt for choice and represent the only outright pick that makes sense in this year’s competition.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.