Stoke City’s Europa League group campaign may have ended with a whimper but they still look in great shape to progress to the latter stages of the competition.
The Potters were 1-0 up against Besiktas on Wednesday before the Turks levelled from the spot after Matthew Upson’s foul on Hugo Almeida.
Upson was subsequently sent off for the infringement and Stoke went on to lose 3-1 – a result that saw them finish second behind the Turkish side by one point.
That means Stoke now face a tie against either one of the other group winners or one of the four best performing Champions League teams to drop into the competition.
However, Stoke will avoid playing two of the best performing Champions League sides – Manchester United and City – because they are unable to play a team from their own country in the first round of knockout games.
That leaves them with the altogether more manageable possibility of playing Valencia or Olympiacos – along with the likes of already-named group winners Athletic Bilbao, Schalke, FC Twente and Anderlecht.
Stoke are currently out at 25/1 to win the competition and have shown several times that they are more than capable of performing on the European stage.
Tony Pulis’ men will have a tough task to win the competition – especially with so much quality dropping down from the Champions League – but an each-way punt on them could lead to a very decent payout.
Meanwhile, Manchester City are the current favourites for the competition at 5/1, while Manchester United are just adrift of them at 7/1.