MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has made a packet on the Europa League this season. Here he selects his four favourite fancies from Thursday night’s matchday four coupon.
Besiktas v Lokomotiv Moscow | Thursday 16.00 | BT Sport Extra
Besiktas are flying right now. The Black Eagles have soared to the top of the Turkish Super Lig playing an exciting and attacking brand of football. That’s no major surprise following their summer appointment of Senol Gunes.
Gunes was in charge of Bursaspor last season with the mid-ranking club finishing the domestic campaign as Turkey’s top goalscorers and Besiktas have followed on that theme as the Super Lig’s top marksmen. The Black Eagles have netted 27 goals in 10 league fixtures and the fluidity, speed and precision of the Istanbul giants’ attacking play has been a joy to watch.
The likes of Oguzhan Ozyakup, Gokhan Tore, Mario Gomez, Jose Sosa and Olcay Sahan have all been earning rave reviews back home and now the Turks are looking to impress on the continental stage. Sitting second in Group H, Gunes’ side are looking to collect maximum points from the visit of Lokomotiv Moscow.
The two teams played out a 1-1 draw in Russia but Besiktas have since thrashed Antalyaspor 5-1 and held 3-3 at home by Kasimpasa but are well rested having last played on Friday (Lokomotiv were involved in league action on Sunday). The hosts have confirmed Ricardo Quaresma is fit and winger Olcay Sahan has now served his three-match suspension.
The visitors could qualify with a win in Turkey but will be without captain Vedran Corluka following his dismissal in the sides’ first meeting. The Railwaymen will also be missing centre-half Nemanja Pejcinovic through injury as well as defensive midfielder Dmitri Tarasov. Wideman Alan Kasaev and defender Taras Mykhalyk are also doubts for the trip to the atmospheric Atatürk Olympic Stadium.
Lokomotiv coach Igor Cherevchenko is well aware his troops have lost momentum since Pejcinovic’s injury during their derby clash with Spartak and the Russians have now lost three successive fixtures, including a home cup defeat to Amkar, since he was crocked. Last weekend the Railwaymen were stuffed 6-2 by Kuban and they’re seriously struggling defensively.
I reckon a rampant Besiktas will prove too hot to handle for Lokomotiv and the Turkish hosts are well worth a punt at 4/5 (Betfred) to bring us some Guy Fawkes Night delight.
Viktoria Plzen v Rapid Vienna | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport Extra
Only three sides are defending 100% records in the Europa League coming into matchday four and you’d have been given very fancy odds on Rapid Vienna being one of those clubs.
The Austrians are five points off the pace in the Bundesliga after a W8-D1-L5 opening but Villarreal, Dinamo Minsk, Ajax and Thursday night’s hosts Viktoria Plzen have all been brushed aside in continental competition this season. Zoran Barisic’s men now make the short return trip to the Czech Republic looking to extend their winning streak.
Rapid know three points will put them into the knockout stage with two games to spare – something that could be a big boost to their domestic hopes – and they’ll be well fancied with Plzen toiling of late. The Czechs have lost three of their last six games having previously won eight on the spin, making the huge 2/1 (Bet365) on Rapid in the Draw No Bet market look incredibly enticing.
But I’m also going to invest in a goals-based bet with both clubs taking an offensive approach to fixtures this term. The last meeting was an enjoyable 3-2 encounter and with the Austrians netting in all bar two of their last 24, you’d expect them to notch again with Viktoria looking vulnerable at the back in that previous head-to-head.
Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 4/5 with 10Bet and that holds plenty of appeal having won in five of Rapid’s eight European matches this season already as well as their previous six in all competitions. On the road, seven of the visitors 10 away days have also banked in the BTTS market, including 5-2 success at Bundesliga leaders and bitter rivals Austria Vienna.
The hosts have now gone seven matches without a clean sheet and only been shut out twice since August. Five of their last seven have also proven profitable for Both Teams To Score backers, as well as five of their six at the Doosan Arena despite sitting joint-top of the Czech Liga.
Athletic Bilbao v Partizan Belgrade | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Athletic Bilbao began their Europa League travails back in July and Thursday night’s visit from Partizan Belgrade represents their 20th game of the season already. And after a series of false-starts, it finally looks like Les Leones are finding their best form.
The Basques have W4-D1-L0 in their last five outings and even led 2-0 in Deportivo La Coruna before being pegged back in the fixture they failed to record three points in. During that positive run of results, Athletic defeated Partizan 2-0 in Belgrade and so they’ll be confident of completing the double this midweek.
Take out results against Real Madrid and Barcelona this term and Les Leones have won all seven of their San Mames dates this campaign and Ernesto Valverde’ side have ran out victorious in 11/24 (46%) of their La Liga home games since the start of last season – seven of those were achieved by a margin of two goals or more, including all three league successes in 2015/16.
Partizan are down in fourth in the Serbian Super Liga, a huge 19 points off the top of the table claiming an unremarkable W5-D4-L4 run of results since August. Not too much should be read into their 3-1 win at a struggling Augsburg side but it is worth noting they’ve been beaten in seven of their last 10 away European matches as well as half of their eight domestic road trips this term.
Athletic may well make changes for this clash but I don’t expect the Serbians to lay a glove on the hosts and so the 5/6 from BetVictor that the Basques beat the -1.5 Asian Handicap looks a real runner. We’ll be paid out should Les Leones win by two goals or more, a feat they’ve achieved in five of their previous six Europa League victories.
Rosenborg v Lazio | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Rosenborg made the group-stages of the Europa League all the way from the first qualifying round but Trondheim’s finest have struggled to make an impact in Group G, with just a point to their name after three fixtures.
Most frustrating for the Troll Kids was the reverse encounter with Lazio a fortnight ago. The Italians were a man down within six minutes of the kick-off but still managed to collect a 3-1 victory at the Stadio Olimpico, putting them within touching distance of the Last 32.
However, homeboy hero Kare Ingebrigtsen has led the Norwegians to yet another domestic title in recent weeks and has a full squad to pick from as they bid to rid their unwanted winless record on Thursday night. The Troll Kids’ form has dropped off lately (W4-D5-L4) but they have plundered 15 goals in their previous five outings.
Rosenborg know this meeting is do-or-die in their bid to extend their season and so must play with their foot on the accelerator and their prospects have been aided by the injury to Lazio’s key defensive lynchpin Stefan De Vrij. Without the Dutch centre-half the Biancocelesti are unconvincing at the back whilst their road record leaves a lot to be desired.
Stefano Pioli’s men travel to chilly Trondheim having picked up a solitary success away from home this season (W1-D1-L6) and on Sunday they were out-gunned 3-1 by a rejuvenated Milan in Rome. Pioli’s urged his side to find more consistency and concentration in their performances but I’d be surprised if they found defensive solidity here.
The aforementioned run of results puts me off a punt on Rosenborg so instead I’ll head towards a goals-based bet. Over 2.5 Goals has been chalked up at 10/11 with William Hill and that looks a little on the large side considering it’s won in seven of Lazio’s last eight as well as nine of their most recent 11 away trips. The Norwegians have followed suit in four of their previous five.
Besiktas v Lokomotiv Moscow – Besiktas to win (4/5 Betfred)
Viktoria Plzen v Rapid Vienna – Rapid Vienna draw no bet (2/1 Bet365)
Viktoria Plzen v Rapid Vienna – Both Teams To Score (4/5 10Bet)
Athletic Bilbao v Partizan Belgrade – Athletic Bilbao -1.5 Asian Handicap (5/6 BetVictor)
Rosenborg v Lazio – Over 2.5 Goals (10/11 William Hill)
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