Europa Conference League predictions: Experienced Villarreal can go all the way
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Bobbie Jackson
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Quique Setien's Villarreal are among the contenders in the Europa Conference League
Quique Setien's Villarreal are among the contenders in the Europa Conference League

- Lazio should ease past CFR Cluj in knockout play-off 
- West Ham and Villarreal through to last 16 
- Recommended bet: Back Villarreal to win the Europa Conference League

Villarreal recently enjoyed success on the European stage and they have more than enough quality to deliver in the Europa Conference League this season.

The group stage did not throw up too many surprises with West Ham, Fiorentina, Anderlecht, Villarreal and Nice all making it through, although they did not all top their sections.

Anderlecht and Fiorentina could only finish second and, therefore, have to play against a Europa League drop-out in the knockout play-off round.

An extra game is the last thing clubs want in an already hectic season, which will be interrupted by the upcoming 2022 World Cup, but Villarreal and West Ham can afford to sit back and wait to return in the last 16.

Hammers make history

The Europa Conference League is only into its second-ever campaign but West Ham showed their quality in the group stage by becoming the first club to win all six games.

They were also the second-highest scorers in the group stage, netting 13 times, and kept things tight at the back conceding just four goals.

With top spot sealed heading into their final match with FCSB, David Moyes used the opportunity to field several academy graduates and they still eased to a 3-0 win in Romania.

Lazio looking like potential challengers

Maurizio Sarri's Lazio have been flying in Serie A this term and currently sit third in the table but they came up just short in their Europa League campaign.

Maurizio Sarri has guided Lazio up to third in Serie A this season
Maurizio Sarri has guided Lazio up to third in Serie A this season

Lazio finished third in Group F but all four clubs finished on eight points and it was the finest of margins that saw them drop down to the Conference League.

In Serie A, Lazio have been extremely tight at the back, shipping just eight goals in 13 outings. However, they were unusually sloppy defensively in the Europa League and conceded 11 times in six fixtures.

They have been drawn against CFR Cluj in the knockout play-off round and should not have too many issues in getting past the Romanian club.

CFR Cluj scored just five goals across their six Conference League group matches and may struggle to match Lazio's level.

Villarreal offer value

Villarreal are second favourites to win the competition behind West Ham and they could be the value pick.

With European specialist and new Aston Villa boss Unai Emery at the helm, Villarreal beat Manchester United on penalties to win the Europa League in 2020-21.

Emery may no longer be in charge but many of the players are still in place with 10 of the 11 who started that final still on the books.

They topped their Conference League group with relative ease, winning their opening four games before easing off and taking a point from the final two matches.

Prediction

West Ham are the 4/1 favourites via LiveScore Bet to win the Conference League but Villarreal, priced at 9/2 with LiveScore Bet, look a bit more tempting.

Both clubs have the benefit of sitting out the knockout play-off round, while their last-16 opponent will have to battle through a potentially tough two-legged affair.

Experience is everything in Europe and Villarreal boss Quique Setien can call on a crop of players who do not have to cast their minds too far back to invoke memories of lifting a European trophy.

Jose Luis Morales was the joint-top scorer in the group stage, netting five times, and his ability to convert could also be a key factor for the Spanish outfit.

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VillarrealWest Ham United
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