There were more than a few shock results thrown up last week in the Europa League, with Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat away at Midtjyland and Valencia’s 6-0 demolition of Rapid Wien heading up a fairly lengthy list of surprises.
There’s always plenty of value floating around within the competition, and this week is no different – let’s see if we can find a few winners.
Liverpool 9/20 | Draw 33/10 | Augsburg 57/10
One wonders whether or not Jurgen Klopp will head into Thursday night’s fixture with Augsburg with one eye on the Capital One Cup final on Sunday. With only two days between two season-defining matches for the Merseysiders, some difficult decisions will have to be made. Last week’s 0-0 draw was boring beyond belief – chances were at a premium while both sides looked content to head to Anfield with a share of the spoils. Let’s hope that the Reds will be shocked into action in front of their own supporters, for the sake of the neutral if nothing else.
A laboured performance last time out reeked of indifference, which was especially bizarre when you consider how well they played a few days prior when they hammered Aston Villa 6-0. The movement by the Reds’ enterprising front three of Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino was simply not capitalised upon by the midfielders, who instead picked the safer lateral pass rather than trying to split the Augsburg defence. The Germans would have been happy with the result, they know that if they can grab the first goal in the return leg, Klopp’s side will have it all to do. The last thing the charismatic German will want is for his charges to be forced into extra time and penalties with a cup final looming on the horizon. As such, he’ll likely give his players licence to attack from the first minute to ensure that the game doesn’t go into extra time. The Reds should definitely have enough firepower to win the game, but they may well leave their shaky back four exposed. Back Liverpool to win + both teams to score at 9/4.
FC Porto 23/10 | Draw 24/10 | Borussia Dortmund 11/10
Dortmund were absolutely brilliant last time out against Porto at the BVB Stadion. They starved their Portuguese opposition of possession and scored in either half to put Thomas Tuchel’s men firmly in the driving seat as they head to the Estadio do Dragao for the return leg. Jose Peseiro’s men will need to score two goals in order to have any chance of progressing into the round of 16.
Porto will know, however, that playing an attacking game against the Germans will leave them vulnerable on the counter-attack. With Dortmund boasting the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubaneyang, Shinji Kagawa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus up front; they have more than enough firepower to exploit the space left behind and put this game to bed early on in Portugal. Peserio will at least be able to welcome back Danilo and Maxi Pereira who return following suspension, although their inclusion in the match day squad may have little bearing on the two-legged result. Back both teams to score here at 13/20. Porto will look to attack from the outset in an attempt to wipe away Dortmund’s lead. The Germans, in turn, will exploit the space left behind – expect a high-scoring affair in which both teams score.
Manchester United 2/9 | Draw 47/10 | Midtjyland 11/1
Goals from Pione Sisto and Paul Onuachu sent the Midtjyland faithful, who had packed into the 11, 800-seater MCH Arena, into raptures as the tiny Danish club downed the once mighty Manchester United. The Danes won’t have it easy in the second leg, though. United are unbeaten in nine European home games following a 2-1 loss at the hands of Real Madrid in the 2012/13 season. It’s also worth noting that the first leg of this tie was Midtjyland’s first competitive game since 10 December, so they may well still be a bit short of match fitness.
Since their surprise defeat last Thursday, United managed to record a monumental victory over the mighty Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup on Monday. Louis van Gaal now has a decision to make – does he field a full-strength side on Thursday or does he rest a number of his star players for the visit of Arsenal this weekend? We’ll have to wait and see. In any case, there’s not much value with United here. Stick a cheeky tenner on Midtjyland at 11/1.
Tottenham 15/20 | Draw 26/10 | Fiorentina 7/2
For the second consecutive season, Tottenham and Fiorentina head into the return leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie locked at 1-1. Spurs have been in fantastic form in European competition, winning six and drawing two of their last eight games in Europe. They’ll head into this tie in the driving seat having secured the away goal in a 1-1 draw. That said, Spurs have a number of injury concerns going into Thursday night’s game. Jan Vertonghen, Clinton Njie, Hugo Lloris and Tom Carroll are all out while Moussa Dembele and Erik Lamela are both doubtful.
The Viola will be cautiously optimistic as they prepare for the tie, especially considering how many key players Spurs will be without. Paulo Sousa’s side are undefeated in seven games in all competition – the most significant result coming at home against Inter, whom they beat 2-1. It’s also worth mentioning that they haven’t lost away from home in the Europa League this season, winning two and drawing one on the road. This is quite a difficult one to call, Fiorentina look slightly stronger on paper owing to Spurs’ lengthy injury list. The Viola offer exceptional value at 7/2 – back them to book their place in the last 16 with a win over a wounded Spurs.