A wonderful nine winners from 11 Champions League bets for Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) this midweek. Here’s his take on Thursday night’s Europa League action.
Braga v Slovan Liberec | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Never in Braga’s history had they started a group-stage of European competition with successive victories but the Portuguese club pocketed three on the spin before being downed 1-0 by Marseille last time out in the Europa League.
Paulo Fonseca, appointed this summer, has led the Archbishops to within touching distance of the Last 32 as they bid to extend their unblemished streak of getting through UEFA Cup/ Europa League groups to five campaigns. A win over Slovan Liberec would confirm their qualification but even a draw could be enough depending on Marseille’s result with Groningen in the other Group F contest.
The 2011 finalists have won their last four Europa League group-stage home games at their Estadio Municipal home and head into this fixture on the back of an outstanding run of results (W8-D3-L1). Braga have kept 10 clean sheets across those 12 matches and now shutout their opponents in 11 of their 16 outings in all competitions this term. Impressive.
Liberec are making their third appearance in the group-stage but only once before advanced to the Last 32. However, the Czechs are sitting in second and no avoiding defeat in Portugal would give them an outstanding chance of qualifying with Marseille still to visit on the final matchday.
The Blue-Whites have been transformed by Jindrich Trpisovsky, a head coach who models himself on Jurgen Klopp. The football hasn’t been quite as electric but Liberec are getting results – since their Super Cup loss to Viktoria Plzen in July, the visitors have W14-D7-L3 and won all four of their away European ties this term without conceding.
It’s going to be a tight encounter and all the stats point towards a low-scoring tie. The reverse fixture in Czech Republic ended in a 1-0 win for Braga and that was one of 6/7 matches involving these two teams in the pool to feature fewer than three goals.
Under 2.5 Goals has won in 10/16 Braga games this term, in Slovan’s last six in this tournament and in six of their previous eight in all competitions. Yet BetVictor are offering 20/21 on Under 2.5 Goals this Thursday night – I’ll happily have a dabble.
But I’m also going to have a small play on a Braga to win ‘to nil’. I’ve already mentioned their stunning clean sheet record and seven of their nine victories in 2015/16 have come alongside shutting their opposition out. It’s 13/8, also with BetVictor.
Villarreal v Rapid Vienna | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Rapid Vienna are one of only two teams to enter Matchday 5 with a 100% record but the Austrians face a tough task if they’re to maintain their unblemished record this midweek.
Zoran Barisic’s side have been remarkably consistent in front of goal, plundering at least two goals in all bar one of those victories despite firing in fewer shots-on-target than more than half of their 48 Europa League counterparts (an average of 3.75 shots-on-target per-game). They’ve hit the woodwork on two occasions too…
I’m certainly not going to complain, though. The Green-Whites have notched in their last 14 fixtures since September – one of only two blanks in 27. In continental action, they’ve scored 15 goals in eight matches having been involved in the Champions League qualifiers and arrive in Spain on the back of a 6-1 smashing of Mattersburg in the Austrian Bundesliga.
I believe Vienna are more than capable of containing their hot-streak in front of goal at Villarreal on Thursday. The Yellow Submarine are sitting in fifth in La Liga right now but a W1-D2-L3 return from their previous six domestic matches has seen Marcelinho’s men lose a bit of momentum.
On Sunday the Spaniards were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw when welcoming Eibar to El Madrigal in a contest we correctly highlighted for Both Teams To Score purposes. And this head-to-head looks primed for a repeat play on the BTTS market with BetVictor offering a bulbous 3/4.
On home soil, Villarreal have W6-D1-L1 this term but kept just a solitary clean sheet and looking back to last season, Marcelinho’s hosts have shutout their opponents in only six of their last 19 contests in front of their adoring supporters. Six of their last nine at El Madrigal have delivered BTTS winners.
Three of Rapid’s four Europa matches have followed suit, as have their last nine in all competitions. Overall, a huge 20/27 of Vienna’s fixtures this season have rewarded Both Teams To Score hunters with 11/14 coming on the road.
Braga v Slovan Liberec – Under 2.5 Goals (20/21 BetVictor)
Braga v Slovan Liberec – Braga to win ‘to nil’ (13/8 BetVictor)
Villarreal v Rapid Vienna – Both Teams To Score (3/4 BetVictor)
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