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Europa League Reaches Crunch Time

Europa League Reaches Crunch Time

Alessandro Aldieri . Posted in Europe No Comments

It might be considered the unfashionable cousin of the Champions League, but the Europa League does provide a fantastic ‘back door’ route into European football’s richest prize; as last year’s winners Sevilla have proved.

Not all of the teams involved take the tournament seriously, but with Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Monaco all topping their respective groups, it is clear that this year’s Europa League could be set for a thrilling conclusion.

But first group matters need to be settled, and with three games left to play in this first stage of the competition things are starting to hot up.

Group A

Molde can book their place in the next round with victory over Celtic, although they must travel to Scotland to take on their opponents on a surface where they are particularly formidable. A win for Celtic meanwhile would put them back in contention on five points.

In the other game in the group Ajax host Fenerbahce, with the victor taking pole position to qualify for the next phase. The Turkish side won the reverse fixture 1-0, but tend to struggle away from home and with Ajax winning their last Eredivisie match 6-0, perhaps they are favourites.

Group B

FC Sion are the surprise leaders in Group B, and will know that even a point against Bordeaux on Thursday will propel them within touching distance of the next phase. For the French side, nothing but a win will do.

Liverpool have shown signs of improvement under Jurgen Klopp, and the German manager is clearly a fan of the competition as he continues to field strong sides. He will want to continue his team’s recent upturn in fortunes, but a trip to Rubin Kazan is never easy. A draw at 3.70 looks good value here.

Group C

There’s no surprise that Borussia Dortmund top Group C, and they continue to field strong sides – Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are regulars in the Europa League this term. If that trend continues, they should blow away FK Qabala on Thursday night and secure their spot in the next round.

That leaves FK Krasnodar and PAOK to battle it out for the runners up spot, and you have to fancy the Russian side on home soil to outfox their Greek opponents.

Group D

It’s three wins from three for Napoli now, and you wouldn’t fancy FC Midtjylland to upset that 100% record. The Italians’ price of 1.29 will add some decent value to an accumulator bet come Thursday night.

Defeat for Midtjylland would open the door for either Club Brugge or Legia Warsaw to come back into contention for the runners up spot in Group D. The Polish side are strong away from home, and the Over 2.5 market looks a distinct possibility in this clash (1.85).

Group E

Rapid Vienna top Group E with three wins from three, and despite their indifferent form in the Austrian Bundesliga they are going great guns in the Europa League. Their opponents on Thursday night, Viktoria Plzen, will prove no pushover however, and will know that a win on home soil – where they have won five matches in a row – will give them an outside chance of pooping the second round party.

Villarreal will be hoping to continue their decent start to both their Europa League and La Liga campaigns, and they travel to Belarus to take on the pointless Dinamo Minsk, whose indifferent home form (they’ve only won three of seven matches on their own turf) gives the Spaniards the edge. They are backable at 1.58.

Group F

Portuguese side Braga have made light work of Group F so far, winning all three of their matches – including a pulsating 3-2 win over Marseille last time out. On Thursday they travel to the French side knowing that a solitary point will all but secure their qualification. Marseille’s poor run in Ligue 1, where they currently sit in 12th place in the table, has to be held against them. Braga, who are unbeaten in six, will fancy the job.

If Slovan Liberec can force a win in Groningen they will greatly enhance their chances of qualification – which makes their price of 2.40 to escape Group F all the more surprising. But they have only won once in their last five matches in all competitions, and the Dutch side are reasonably strong at home (four wins from five), so they look good value at 2.30.

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