ST Johnstone kick off their Europa League campaign against Armenian side Alashkert. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) gives us his betting view.
Alashkert v St Johnstone | Thursday 16:00
Well this is tough isn’t it? A Europa League 1st qualifying round tie featuring a side who didn’t even exist five years ago. Yes, the key to solving this puzzle is trying to define the level of form held by Armenian side Alashkert. So let’s discuss…
The original incarnation of the club was set up in 1990 and dissolved 10 years later. They reformed in 2011 and won the second tier in Armenia in 2012/13. Their first season in the top flight saw them finish bottom of the eight team league yet they didn’t suffer relegation. Don’t ask me how, I have no idea. It’s difficult finding things like that out when there’s so little on the internet. Trust me.
Last season was much more positive though and Alashkert finished fourth and duly qualified for the Europa League. This will be their first appearance in Europe so there’s no form at all to go on.
Looking back at Armenian clubs performances at this level may prove key. Champions Banants were knocked out in the opening Champions League round by Andorran side FC Santa Coloma last season. They had three sides in the opening stage of the Europa League last season and all were knocked out.
Shirak lost 6-1 overall to Shakhtar Karagandy, Mika were beaten 3-1 on aggregate by RNK Split (although they did draw in Armenia) and Cup winners Pyunik were beaten 6-1 by Kazak side Astana. Pyunik won the Armenian title last season and beat San Marino side Folgore 2-1 at home on Tuesday in their opening Champions League match on Tuesday.
Now, for me, St Johnstone are above that level of form. This is a side that knocked out Swiss side Luzern last season and gave Spartak Trnava a good game in the following round drawing in Slovakia.
The previous season Tommy Wright’s side knocked out Rosenborg and took Dinamo Minsk to penalties. That is far far stronger form than we’re seeing from Armenian sides in European competition.
The Perth side had a brilliant season last year finishing fourth in Scotland and beat Celtic at Parkhead. They were a tight, organised outfit and should be too good for Alashkert.
The fear for Saints is the 90 degree heat they’ll face in Armenia (you don’t get that in Perth) but I’m happy to back them to win by the odd goal or by two. Come on St Johnstone!
Alashkert v St Johnstone – St Johnstone to win by 1 goal (12/5 Stan James)
Alashkert v St Johnstone – St Johnstone to win by 2 goals (100/30 Bet365)