The Europa League returns this week with a full set of fixtures coming your way on Thursday evening.
Europe's second tier competition resumes this Thursday with an absolute boatload of fixtures coming our way. The fixture of the round will see Southampton travel to a faltering Inter Milan side while Celta Vigo welcome Ajax to the Balaídos.
As is always the case, we've previewed four selected fixtures and tipped a pretty tasty looking treble. Let's take a look below:
Celta Vigo 9/10 | Draw 49/20 | Ajax 29/10
Celta Vigo head into this game off the back of a hiding at the hands of Villarreal this past weekend. A 5-0 thumping at the El Madrigal seems to suggest that all is not well with Eduardo Berizzo’s men, however, recent results don’t vindicate the statement at all. Os Célticos were on a four-game winning streak before they were shot down by the Yellow Submarine – one of those wins coming in a thrilling 4-3 win over Barcelona.
Their Europa League form is decent enough. They drew their opening game against Standard Liege, before cruising to a regulation 2-0 win over Greek giants Panathinaikos. Ajax will present a much tougher assignment than Liege and Panathinaikos – it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Spaniards shine in front of the Balaídos faithful.
Ajax have been near unstoppable of late, winning all of their last nine games in all competitions including a 5-0 win against Willem II, which was followed by a crushing 5-1 victory over Zwolle. The Dutch giants currently top Group G in the Europa League and will be looking to all but secure their qualification into the next round of the competition with a win in Vigo. Ajax have a ton of momentum and should be backed at 29/10.
Roma 2/9 | Draw 5/1 | Austria Wien 19/2
Roma come into this match on the back of a superb 3-1 victory over Napoli at the weekend. A brace from Edin Dzeko as well as a late strike from Mohamed Salah ensured that the men from the Italian capital consolidated their grip on second place in the Serie A standings.
A win for Luciano Spalletti’s charges will see them assume full control of Group E going into the second half of the group stages. Austria Wien won’t be pushovers, although they shouldn’t really trouble Spalletti’s charges. The Austrians come into this game level on points with the Italians and would love nothing more than to wrestle control of the group away from Roma.
Austria Wien really do have a mountain to climb here. Their squad is inferior in every way, and when you factor in the fact that they only sit fourth in the Austrian Bundesliga behind the likes of Strum Graz, Altach and Red Bull Salzburg, it just doesn't bode well for their chances. They’ll need a massive performance here to get one over Roma away from home. Take Roma on the (-1) Handicap here at 6/10.
Inter Milan 5/4 | Draw 23/10 | Southampton 2/1
It’s been a season to forget thus far for Inter Milan. Poor performances on the pitch have been exacerbated by Mauro Icardi’s spectacular falling out with the Inter Ultras. Languishing in 11th place in Serie A and without a point in the Europa League, the pressure is growing on one of European football’s fallen giants.
The narrative surrounding Inter’s woes this season has been focussed on deterioration of relations between Icardi (the club’s captain) and the Inter supporters following some less than savoury remarks made in the Argentine’s autobiography. Fans even went so far as the cheer his penalty miss at the weekend as Inter suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Cagliari.
The last thing they need right now is to face a Southampton side who have been magnificent over the last few weeks. The Saints haven’t tasted defeat since their 2-1 away loss at the hands of Arsenal on 10 September in the Premier League. Since then, they’ve won four and drawn two matches scoring 12 goals and conceding once in all competitions.
Charlie Austin has hit a rich vein of form while the likes of Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic are finally living up to their potential. Another key player for the south coast team has been Virgil van Dijk. The Dutch centre-half has been on another level this season with many suggesting that he could soon find himself playing for a much bigger club – some even suggesting he could go to Barcelona or Real Madrid.
As much as you need to respect Inter Milan as an institution, I simply don’t see them getting the better of Southampton at the moment. Back the Saints at 2/1.
Manchester United 5/10 | Draw 32/10 | Fenerbahçe 47/10
Jose Mourinho has made it very clear how he feels about the Europa League – he’d much rather not be involved at all. As it stands, his United team have fixtures to fulfil and no amount of arrogance from the Portuguese boss can change that.
The Red Devils should be confident enough heading into this game, although, I’m not sure we’ll see too many of the bunch that earned a point at Anfield on Monday evening. Mourinho’s men currently sit third in Group A behind Feyenoord and Fenerbahçe and need to turn the corner if they are to get out of this pool.
They’ll face a Fenerbahçe side who have been far from their best this season. The Turkish giants have only won two out of their first seven games in the Turkish Super Lig and are floundering in ninth place. That said, Dick Advocaat’s men will be coming to Old Trafford with a point to prove – and they’ve got the players to do just that.
Robin van Persie is likely to lead the line against the team he almost single-handedly fired to Premier League glory in the 2012-13 season. He’s not been at his best of late, but the Netherland’s all-time top scorer has undoubted quality and could shoot down his former club if given decent service.
I’m not really sure which way this one will go. United are likely to field an understrength side but I’m not confident enough to tip Fenerbahçe. If you must have a go, back the draw at 32/10.
Celta Vigo v Ajax – Ajax win 29/10
Roma v Austria Wien – Roma (-1) 6/10
Inter Milan v Southampton – Southampton win 2/1
Treble at 18/1
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.