We take a look at five selected round one Europa League fixtures and tip a fantastic 37/1 five-fold multiple.
With the eyes of the footballing world firmly affixed to the glitz and glamour of the Champions League, it’s easy to forget that the Europa League gets underway on Thursday.
From a betting perspective, Europe’s second tier club competition offers a boatload of matches and some incredible prices. Below we’ll take a look at the pick of matchweek one’s fixtures.
Feyenoord 31/10 | Draw 26/10 | Manchester United 8/10
Feyenoord have made an incredible start to their domestic season, winning all five of their league games this season after having narrowly lost out on the Johan Cryuff Shield to PSV before the season got underway. In the time since the start of the season, they’ve helped themselves to 15 goals while their watertight defence have only conceded twice thus far.
The Dutch side have made some shrewd acquisitions over the last few years and have underlined their credentials as one of the strongest teams in the Eredivisie. The quintet of Dirk Kuyt, Nicolai Jorgensen, Eljero Elia, Jens Toornstra and Karim El Ahmadi offer the Rotterdam club movement guile and most importantly; a goal-scoring threat unmatched by any of their local rivals.
They will have to be at their best on Thursday though as they prepare to do battle with a Manchester United side who are smarting after their derby-day defeat at the hands of Manchester City. Jose Mourinho’s Manchester revolution endured its first real hiccough as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s City outfit.
To be honest, United never really looked like troubling their noisy neighbours despite Claudio Bravo’s best attempts to restore parity to the match. The Red Devils have stumbled at their first real hurdle after a nervy display against Hull City before the international break. The last thing they need right now is another slip up away at a fired up Feyenoord side, who will no doubt be at full strength. I fancy Feyenoord on the Win/Draw Double Chance here – United are likely to head into this tie with a weakened squad as they’ll have one eye on their Sunday clash with Watford. The Dutch side are tipped on the double chance at 9/10.
Nice 37/20 | Draw 43/20 | Schalke 15/10
The saga ends! Mario Balotelli ended his Liverpool nightmare with a move to the south of France where he got his Nice career off to the perfect start, scoring both goals in a 2-2 home draw against a resurgent Marseille side who are desperate to shake off last season’s wretched league showing.
It’s not just Balotelli who has joined Lucien Farve’s revolution on the majestic French coast. He’s also managed to bring in the likes of Dante from Wolfsburg, as well as the exciting French U21 international Wylan Cyprien, who has started the season with a bang. He scored once already and dictates play from the centre of the park with coolness and composure well beyond his years. Nice currently find themselves second in the Ligue 1 standings, having won three and drawn one of their opening four games – with the likes of PSG and Lyon slipping up, they’ll be keen to mix it up at the top of the table while giving a good account of themselves in the Europa League this season.
Schalke have endured a nightmare start to their domestic campaign, having lost their two opening matches without getting on the scoresheet. A 1-0 away defeat against Eintracht was immediately followed by a 2-0 home drubbing at the hands of the infallible Bayern Munich.
They don’t appear to have recovered from the sale of their two best players – Leroy Sane and Joel Matip – who both left the club to try their hands in the Premier League. To make matters worse, their new signings haven’t really bedded in yet with Breel Embolo, Benjamin Stambouli and Coke all looking well off the pace thus far. Nice have all the momentum coming into this game and look like an absolute steal at 37/20 – get on!
Southampton 9/20 | Draw 31/10 | Sparta Prague 57/10
Southampton’s start to the 2016/17 Premier League campaign has been less than memorable – two draws and two defeats have left them floundering in the bottom three. However, they haven’t had the easiest of starts to the season. Two 1-1 draws and a pair of defeats against Manchester United and Arsenal have left them playing catch up.
They’ll be keen to kick start their season against Sparta Prague on Thursday evening. They added real quality in the summer in the form of Sofiane Boufal (who is out injured at the minute), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Nathan Redmond, who will complement the likes of Dusan Tacic, Shane Long, Jose Fonte and Fraser Forster. They could well be in the mix at the business end of the Europa League.
Their opposition – Sparta Prague – are very much one of the teams in the competition that are just there to make up the numbers. Even with their dream run to the quarter-finals of the competition last season, they don’t look likely to get out of a group that contains the likes of Inter Milan and Southampton.
They simply don’t have the squad depth or the financial clout to compete in such a strong competition. Keep an eye out for summer signing, Vaclav Kadlex – the Czech international starred for FC Midtjylland when they famously beat Manchester in the first leg of their round of 32 fixture. Southampton should cruise through here at 9/20 – definitely one for the multiples.
Sassuolo 33/20 | Draw 22/10 | Athletic Bilbao 33/20
I’m not really too clued up about Sassuolo, however, their patchy start to the 2016/17 Italian Serie A season is a red flag for me. They did come up against Juventus this weekend, and to be fair, nobody really expected Sassuolo to come out on top - as they fell to a 3-1 defeat.
Their recruitment over the off-season leaves a lot to be desired with a number of b-grade players coming in from local clubs, while Tim Letschert was lured to the club after been made surplus to requirements at FC Utrecht. They did manage to secure Alfred Duncan on a permanent transfer from Sampdoria after the young central midfielder impressed whilst on loan last term.
Their opponents for Thursday, Athletic Bilbao, have also made a less than pleasing start to their 2016/17 league campaign. Narrow defeats against Sporting Gijon and Barcelona were followed up by a solid 1-0 away win at Deportivo.
Fans were left a little disappointed in the transfer window as the Basque club only brought in players from their B side in La Liga 2. Crucially though, they managed to retain the services of Aritz Aduriz, Aymeric Laporte, Raul Garcia and Iker Muniain. I like Bilbao and I think their robust style of play with Aduriz leading the attack is perfectly suited to the Europa League where matches are often scrappy and bereft of quality. With this in mind, the smart money is on Bilbao at 33/20.
Inter Milan 7/20 | Draw 4/1 | Hapoel Be’er Sheva 7/1
Inter Milan had arguably the busiest transfer period of any Serie A side bringing in 98 million Pounds worth of talent. Frank de Boer is clearly trusted by his Chinese retail magnate overlords and was given the green light to splurge on Joao Mario, Gabriel and Antonio Candreva – peculiarly enough those three players (all of whom are natural right wings) were purchased for a combined total of 78 million Pounds. It’ll be interesting to see how well these guys bed in and whether or not they can all play in the same system. Only time will tell.
De Boer’s side have definite European pedigree and will be keen to lay down a marker in the group stages with their vast array of attacking talent. They have the perfect opportunity to do just that when they welcome the relatively unknown force that is Hapoel Be’er Sheva to the San Siro on Wednesday night.
The Israelis come into this tie having missed out on qualification to the Champions League after Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic pipped them 5-4 over two legs. They showed grit and determination in that tie, although their lack of real quality is likely to see them eliminated from the competition in the first round. They simply don’t have the quality to compete with Inter and Southampton, although, they may sneak a home win against Sparta. Inter on the -1 handicap at 17/20 here.
Get your weekend off to a potentially winning start by taking all five of the above bets at a hefty 37/1 acca! Why not have a dip, you never know!
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.