Europa League: Week 1 Selected Fixtures Preview

Two soccer players compete for ball in misty stadium

We preview four of the tastiest looking Europa League clashes from the first round of matches taking place on Thursday 14 September.

While the Champions League will take centre stage on Tuesday and Wednesday, this week also sees the commencement of the Europa League – Europe’s second tier if you will.

While it lacks some of the fanfare and pomp of its big brother, there are still some big European names taking part this year including the likes of Arsenal, Lyon, AC Milan, Everton and Villarreal.

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Atalanta 14/10 | Draw 22/10 | Everton 2/1
Atalanta endured a pretty difficult start to their Serie A campaign with their two opening fixtures seeing them take on Roma at home before travelling to Naples to face Napoli. They lost those two games, but bounced back nicely to beat Sassuolo at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. While they may be a bit of an unknown force, they boast a couple of top-notch players including Mattia Caldara, very much the Michael Keane of Serie A as well as experienced heads like Papu Gomez who captains the side and Josip Ilicic who arrived in the summer from Fiorentina.

Everton were well and truly spanked by Tottenham at the weekend at Goodison Park, going down 3-0 as Harry Kane grabbed a brace while Christian Eriksen popped up with a smart finish. There’s no reason why Everton can’t compete in this competition this season, however, it remains to be seen whether or not Ronald Koeman will take the Europa League as seriously as some of his continental counterparts. It’s never easy going to Italy to face a team in a decrepit (by Premier League standings) stadium and get a result in front of a partisan Italian crowd. I still think Everton have enough firepower to at least find the back of the net – get on Both Teams to Score at 17/20.

Austria Wien 5/1 | Draw 33/10 | AC Milan 5/10
Austria Wien have it all to do in their first match as they welcome a new-look AC Milan side to the Ernst-Happel-Stadion. The Violets haven’t enjoyed the best of starts in the league this term and find themselves in fourth place. Thorsten Fink’s job isn’t made any easier by a slew of injuries to his best players. Lucas Venuto, Alexander Grunwald, Tarkan Serbest and captain Robert Almer are all unlikely to play any part in Thursday’s encounter.

Despite making a number of brilliant acquisitions in the transfer market, Milan were given a footballing lesson by Lazio on Sunday evening in a 4-1 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico. Having said that, Vincenzo Montella’s side boasts too much quality in the form of Leonardo Bonucci, Alessio Rommagnoli, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Giacomo Bonnaventura. The quartet make up the Italian heart of the side while the more exotic summer acquisitions are expected to bring the flair. Milan should be backed with confidence here at 5/10. They’re superior in every way and should have little trouble breezing past the Austrian minnows. 



Hertha Berlin 31/20 | Draw 22/10 | Athletic Bilbao 7/4
Up next we preview an interesting clash which puts German and Spanish also-rans, Hertha Berlina and Athletic Bilbao up against one another. Hertha have endured a whirlwind start to the season which has seen them beat Stuttgart 2-0, lose against Dortmund by the same margin before earning a home 1-1 draw against Werder Bremen. Expect a very organised side that will give very little away against their more exotic opposition. Manager Pál Dárdai will know all of his players well having spent nearly all of his managerial career at the club at various age groups before being given the first team on a permanent basis.

Bilbao have made an undefeated start to the new season, winning twice and drawing once as they hold fourth place from Leganes and the two Madrid clubs. They will prove difficult to break down, with their watertight defence not yet conceding in three La Liga fixtures. Like his counterpart, Cuco Ziganda will set his side out to keep its shape and play conservatively. Keep an eye out for the Artiz Aduriz – the 36-year-old is an absolute demon in the air and will feed off the quality deliveries that Inaki Williams and Iker Muniain put into the box from the wide areas. A cagey affair is expected at the Olympiastadion Berlin. As such, take the Additional Totals Market: Under 2.5 goals at 13/20.

Arsenal 3/10 | Draw 4/1 | FC Köln 8/1
Arsenal fans won’t be used to staying up on Thursday evenings in order to watch their side participate in the Europa League. As it stands, however, they’ve got a proper job to do. They open their account against a Cologne side who find themselves bottom of the Bundesliga after three games. Arsenal have also endured a pretty up-down start to their season, losing against Liverpool and Stoke while beating Leicester and Bournemouth. I very much doubt Arsene Wenger will put out a strong team with a clash against Chelsea on the Horizon.

 Just three games into the season and FC Köln are already under massive pressure. Last season saw their highest finish in the league in more than 20 years as Jörg Schmadtke guided them to a fifth-place finish. They’ve only managed to score once in the league this season, conceding seven in the process. If they come into this match with this sort of form, they’ll be steam-rolled by Arsenal’s second side. It’s also worth mentioning that Timo Horn – arguably their most important player and goalkeeper – is out of the clash with a hip problem. Arsenal should be too good for the Germans. Take the Gunners on the (-1) handicap at 17/20 here. 


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Written by Jason Dewey for Hollywoodbets

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