NOW all the silly never-heard-of-em clubs have been knocked out of the Europa League, it’s time to concentrate on the cream of the knockout rounds. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) has two bets lined up for Thursday.
Ajax v Legia Warsaw | Thursday 20:05
Confession time. I tried quite a few times to get Legia beaten in the group stages of the competition but failed every time. After such a pitiful effort in the 2013/14 group round (five defeats out of six) armed with a strong team I was pretty cynical about their chances this season.
But lo and behold they vastly improved and won their group in a common canter picking up 15 points out of 18. But while Trabzonspor featured in both of Legia’s groups, this year the inexperienced Lokern and Metalist Kharkiv replaced the stronger 2013/14 sides of Lazio and Apollon Limassol. What I’m trying to say is, Legia had a far easier group this time round.
Their Last 32 assignment is a clash with Ajax, and I’m amazed to see the Dutch side odds-against in their home leg on Thursday. Of course it’s not the vintage Ajax of 20 years ago but they’re hardly mugs.
They were involved in a very tough Champions League group involving Barcelona and PSG and were never disgraced. They drew with PSG and smashed up the fourth side in the group Apollon Limassol (a team that Legia lost to last season in this competition).
Frank De Boer’s side have won nine of their 13 home matches in the Eredivisie this season and can win here at a decent price against Legia Warsaw.
Guingamp v Dynamo Kiev | Thursday 20:05
The rise of Guingamp over the last couple of years has been one of the sweetest stories in European football. Promoted to the French top flight in 2013, they won the French Cup last year and qualified for the Europa League.
In Europe’s secondary club competition they were the only French side to qualify from the group stages as they finished above PAOK Salonika and Dinamo Minsk. It wasn’t the toughest group granted, but it was a great achievement to pick up 10 points with Fiorentina also in the section.
From a European perspective, this is now uncharted territory for Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side and a two-legged encounter with Dynamo Kiev awaits them.
Kiev were winners of Group J after picking up 15 points in a pool involving AaB Aalborg, Steaua Bucharest and Rio Ave. Would it be rude to also suggest that was a fairly weak group? Ah well, I’ll say it anyway.
The Ukrainian side haven’t played a competitive match in 2015, and while that had no ill-effects on Shaktar Donetsk on Tuesday night, it’s not something I’m comfortable with as a punter.
While Kiev have been kicking their heels and playing friendlies, Guingamp have been marching up Ligue 1 after a run of 12 wins in their last 16 league games. This phenomenal run of form has pushed them up to the giddy heights of 8th would you believe.
They’ll go into this game buzzing and with zero pressure. To come this far in this competition is something the 103 year old club have never done before and that might inject them with some free-spirit.
The French side are 9/5 with BetVictor to win on home soil and that looks too big. They won two of their three home matches in the group and I’ll trust them to oblige again at a very handsome price.
Ajax v Legia Warsaw – Ajax to win (21/20 William Hill)
Guingamp v Dynamo Kiev – Guingamp to win (9/5 BetVictor)
BTTS Acca Refund
With so many games on Thursday, how about a BTTS acca? BetVictor will refund your Both Teams To Score acca if just one of the legs lets you down.
Minimum of five picks to qualify. Get refunded here.