THE final chunk of Europa League matches kick off on Thursday evening. We asked Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) to give us his two best bets.
Lille v Wolfsburg | Thursday 20:05 | BT Sport 1
I must confess I found this batch of matches a lot harder to call than the earlier games so I certainly won’t be going in heavy with either of these picks. But let’s be confident eh?
If you were to rank the sides in the Europa League group stages in order of ability, surely Wolfsburg would be very near the top? They’re currently sitting second in the Bundesliga and boasting 10 wins from their last 12 games in all competitions.
Their opponents on Thursday, Lille, have a hugely contrasting record. They haven’t won a game since September 27th and have fluffed their lines 12 games in a row.
It’s remarkable the French side are still in with a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages, but that’s the situation they find themselves in on Thursday. A win here would eliminate Wolfsburg and send Rene Girard’s side through to the Last 32 with Everton.
That must alarm Wolfsburg. Surely Dieter Hecking (with just one game left) will throw everything at this game? His side are at home to minnows Paderborn in the Bundsesliga on Sunday, so can afford to give this match a real go.
Wolfsburg have won three of their last four Bundesliga away matches, and won in Russia earlier in this group. Now it’s crunch time, they can deliver again. I’m backing them at 11/8 with BetVictor to sink Lille.
PAOK Salonika v Guingamp | Thursday 20:05
Tough one this. No snazzy analysis here, just a big-looking price that might be worth looking at.
This is a crucial match in Group K. Both PAOK and Guingamp sit together on seven points. six behind group winners Fiorentina. One of them will join the Serie A side in February’s Last 32 round. At the moment, that position sits with the French side after they beat Salonika 2-0 on Matchday 2 at the Stade du Roudourou.
Therefore the onus is on the Greeks to attack here. And when in the mood, they can certainly do that competently.
PAOK sit top of the Greek Super League, four points clear of the much-admired Olympiakos. They can score goals. They’ve already smashed six past Dinamo Minsk at home in this group, and domestically they’re top of the scoring charts with 29 notched in 12 league games. Goals have arrived in their last eight fixtures.
Opponents Guingamp are in the bottom five in the French league, but have the worst defence in the division with 30 goals conceded. They can do goals though, as in their last two league fixtures they’ve scored eight and leaked three.
So, I suppose, what I’m trying to say is, I’m surprised to see Over 2.5 Goals as big as 11/8 with Coral in this fixture. Both these sides have been involved in high-scoring fixtures this season and will be desperate to reach the Last 32. The emphasis is with PAOK to break Guingamp down and I think they’re capable of that.