CAN Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) continue his hot streak on the continent with a few Europa League winners from Thursday’s early games?
Krasnodar v Borussia Dortmund | Thursday 16.00 | BT Sport Extra
Having already secured progression to the next round of the Europa League, Dortmund will take this opportunity to rest and rotate their squad. Head coach Thomas Tuchel has left Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus and Shinji Kagawa, Park Joo-ho, Nuri Sahin and Erik Durm at home with fringe players like Adrian Ramos, Adnan Januzaj, Jonas Hofmann, Lukasz Piszczek, Sven Bender, Neven Subotic and Moritz Leitner being given a run out.
It’s a 1,500-mile journey to Krasnodar, towards the northeast of the Black Sea, and although BVB have been close to flawless in this competition, a late goal was required to secure a 2-1 victory when they met in Germany. I’m expecting another tough battle for the Black & Yellows, especially considering they come to this fixture off their worst performance of the season.
Dortmund were beaten 3-1 by Hamburg, just their second loss in 23 matches under Tuchel’s tutelage, last time out and may find the going tough against a Krasnodar outfit that are W7-D3-L0 at their Kuban Stadium home. The hosts have no injury concerns and Oleg Kononov is expected to field his strongest XI as the Russians bid to draw level on points with their guests.
There are two angles I wish to pursue. Firstly, I’m happy to have a play on Krasnodar in the Double Chance market at 4/5 quotes from Boylesports – we’ll be paid out should the home side avoid defeat. Dortmund have W3-D3-L2 in their past eight road trips and wobbled in all four of their previous Europa League away days.
The Black & Yellows were 3-0 down at Odd after 22 minutes during qualifying and conceded first in Greece when being held to a 1-1 draw in Thessaloniki. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani side Qabala could have easily scored thrice in the opening minutes if it wasn’t for poor finishing in what ended up a comfortable 3-1 win for Tuchel’s men.
Krasnodar also opened the scoring when these two locked horns in Germany and I like the idea of the Russians scoring a first-half goal at 5/4 with Betfair. Dortmund will be fielding close to a second string and have already leaked in 14 of their past 17 league and cup fixtures. They’ve a tendency to start slow so I’m hopeful the sixth-placed Russian Premier League side can take advantage at a handsome price.
AZ Alkmaar v Partizan Belgrade | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport Europe
AZ handed head coach John van den Brom a one-year contract extension on Friday, tying the talented boss to the club until the summer of 2017. Since joining in September 2014, van den Brom’s brought in a sense of stability and confidence to the AFAS Stadion and guided the Cheese Farmers to a very impressive third-place in the Eredivisie last season.
Juggling domestic and European duties has taken its toll on AZ a little this term. After 13 league fixtures, Thursday’s hosts are a full 10 points behind third-place but back-to-back wins against Vitesse and Heerenveen were more than welcome, snapping a four-game losing streak.
Alkmaar may be bottom of Europa League Group L but they’ve competed fairly well in all of their continental clashes before a 4-1 slamming at Augsburg in their last outing. Still, despite losing three of their four matches, AZ have scored five goals, hit the woodwork on four occasions and been blanked just once.
I like the Dutch outfit and their attacking intent normally serves up a feast in the goals markets. Their four games are averaging 3.50 goals-per-game and in the Eredivisie that reads 3.07 goals-per-game. I like the idea of backing the hosts to score Over 1.5 Goals at 10/11 with William Hill this midweek – it’s a bigger price than backing Over 2.5 Goals.
The Cheese Farmers struck twice in the reverse fixture from Belgrade and downed Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at the AFAS Stadion already this campaign. They’ve only failed to score twice in 16 since September and struck twice in eight of their 12 matches as hosts in 2015/16.
Partizan, normally so dominant in Serbia, have really gone off the boil this season and their W3-D3-L4 return from their past 10 matches is far from inspiring. More alarming, their weekend clean sheet was only their third in 25 and they’ve leaked two goals or more in 10 of those fixtures including six of their most recent nine.
Since 2006, Partizan’s Europa League group-stage record on their travels reads W1-D1-L14 and I’m happy to find a punt to oppose them here.
Krasnodar v Borussia Dortmund – Krasnodar double chance (4/5 Boylesports)
Krasnodar v Borussia Dortmund – Krasnodar to score Over 0.5 first-half goals (5/4 Betfair)
AZ Alkmaar v Partizan Belgrade – AZ Alkmaar to score Over 1.5 Goals (10/11 William Hill)
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