There’s hardly any time to breathe following the week’s Champions League matches with the Europa League set to light up our television sets on Thursday evening.
All 48 teams will be in action across mainland Europe and the British Isles. The pick of the week’s action sees an unstoppable Feyenoord side travel to Old Trafford while Schalke will look to go five from five against Nice. Check out our preview on selected fixtures below:
Zenit 17/20 | Draw 26/10 | Maccabi Tel Aviv 29/10
Zenit have had a magnificent season thus far, losing just one competitive match in all competitions. That defeat came two weeks ago in the league against Terek Grozny, with Mircea Lucescu’s men getting back to winning ways last weekend with a 3-1 win against Samara.
The Russians’ Brazilian playmaker, Giuliano, currently sits atop the Europa League scoring charts, bagging five goals and five assists in just four games. He’s been world class and will look to pull the strings against the Israelis on Thursday evening.
Maccabi come into this game in pretty dodgy form. They’ve only managed one win in their last five games, that victory coming against Kiryat Shmona. I’m not going to delve too deep into this side as I’m not familiar with the league nor any of their players.
Zenit are far superior and it shows when you look at Group D. Back them to win comfortably at home Thursday.
Schalke 19/20 | Draw 51/20 | Nice 26/10
The Germans have endured contrasting form in Europe and in the League. They currently sit top of a strong Europa League group, winning all four of their matches. It’s easy to see why they’ve done so well in Europe: they have an excellent squad littered with players who just haven’t quite made the grade at top European teams. Players like Yevhen Konoplyanka, Benjamin Stambouli, Nabil Bentaleb and Matija Nastasic all ply their trade at the Veltins-Arena.
They’ve also been red hot of late, going undefeated in eight games including massive wins over Borussia Monchengladbach (4-0) and Werder Bremen (3-1). A win for the Gelsenkirchen side will see them qualify top of their group with a game to spare.
Nice on the other hand, have had a magnificent domestic season thus far while churning out rubbish displays in Europe. The South Coast club lead the way in Ligue 1 from Monaco and PSG thanks largely to a Mario Balotelli renaissance. They’ve not been able to recreate that form in the Europa League, however, as they currently sit bottom of Group I with just three points.
While qualification to the next round is still mathematically possible, I don’t think that Lucien Favre will lose any sleep being knocked out in the first round. He and his team have bigger fish to fry in the form of domestic honours. With this in mind, take Schalke to claim victory against what should be a weakened Nice side.
Sparta Prague 26/10 | Draw 9/4 | Southampton 21/20
Sparta – despite looking like one of the weaker teams in this group – top proceedings after four games. That might all change on Thursday as they welcome a strong Southampton side to the Generali Arena. The Czech side are almost completely devoid of any big name players – with the exception of Tomas Rosicky – but perform admirably as a unit.
They’ll come up against a Southampton side who managed to keep a free-scoring Liverpool side at bay last weekend. Virgil van Dijk continues to impress at the heart of their defence while Charlie Austin’s fine season continues.
The South Coast club have plenty of industry behind the frontline with the likes of Nathan Redmond, Sofiane Boufal and Dusan Tadic all capable of causing problems for even the most astute of defences.
The Saints are great value here on the straight win at 21/20 and should win this quite comfortably if Claude Puel puts out a strong side. Get on!
Treble equates to 64/10
Zenit to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv at 17/20
Schalke to beat Nice at 19/20
Southampton to beat Sparta Prague at 21/20
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.