HAVING a punt on the Europa League on Thursday night? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies.
Athletic Bilbao v AZ Alkmaar | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Top meets bottom in Group L as an Athletic side already through to the Round of 32 and boasting the top scorer in this season’s Europa League group-stage welcome AZ to Bilbao.
Aritz Aduriz is in fine form after scoring six goals in this season’s tournament but he may be rested in a rather meaningless match from the Basque Country. But don’t let that put you off a punt on Les Leones winning in a match involving both teams scoring.
Athletic have W7-D1-L2 at San Mames this term with only Real Madrid and Barcelona coming out on top. The solitary draw came on Sunday night when Bilbao were reduced to 10 men early on and the pool winners should still be able to show their mettle with a victory on Thursday.
The hosts have revenge on the cards after a 2-1 defeat in Alkmaar earlier in the competition and having plundered 14 goals across their previous five fixtures despite fielding weakened sides throughout, look handy 2/1 shots with Both Teams To Score thrown in.
AZ have lost their last three matches and collected a meagre three points in the group. The Dutch outfit have lost six of their last 10 on the road and boast the worst defence in the pool (leaking 11).
However, the Cheese Farmers have netted in four of their five Europa League games, including both road trips and should contribute to another winning BTTS bet in Group L – just two of the 10 previous contests have seen this selection fail.
Partizan Belgrade v Augsburg | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Things were all going swimmingly for Augsburg in Matchday 5. Leading Athletic Bilbao up until the 83rd minute, the Fuggerstädter saw the encounter turned on its head with Aritz Aduriz’s late double totally reshaping the group.
The Bundesliga side must win by two clear goals (apart from a 2-0 correct score) to stand a chance of progression with hosts Partizan Belgrade only requiring a point. It’s a task Augsburg midfielder Daniel Baier described as a “brutal final in Belgrade”.
He’s not wrong. Augsburg’s debut European campaign has seen plenty of highs and lows but now boss Markus Weinzierl is likely to turn his attentions to domestic action with the Bavarians looking to continue their surge away from the bottom of the table.
The visitors have fielded weakened sides throughout the Europa League as their small squad simply can’t cope with competing in two major competitions. Having already been beaten by Partizan on home soil and with both midfielders Dominik Kohr and Alex Esswein suspended, I’d be surprised if they went for the jugular in Belgarde.
Partizan look overpriced here. Despite losing to Vojvodina in the capital last time out, Ljubinko Drulovic’s men had won four on the spin previously and have dispatched AZ 3-2 on home soil in their Group L opener. The home side can collect the point they crave to continue their continental trails in 2016; Partizan are 17/20 (Bet365) in the Double Chance market.
Athletic Bilbao v AZ Alkmaar – Athletic Bilbao to win and Both Teams To Score (2/1 Boylesports)
Partizan Belgrade v Augsburg – Partizan Belgrade double chance (17/20 Bet365)
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