MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his betting thoughts on Thursday night’s Europa League action between Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao.
Sevilla v Athletic Bilbao | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport 2
With a top-four finish beyond both Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao this season, the two Spanish sides know securing Europa League glory is their only prospect of clinching a place in next season’s Champions League.
Sevilla upset the odds by claiming their maiden away victory in La Liga or Europe when to take a first leg 2-1 victory last Thursday and at 21/20 (Bet365), it’s Unai Emery’s men that make most appeal at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan for the return clash.
Aritz Aduriz had given Athletic a ninth-minute lead at San Mames but Los Rojiblancos were transformed after taking full advantage of a defensive mix-up to level the scores. Yevhen Konoplyanka and Vicente Iborra’s introductions injected pace and offensive threat and Sevilla never looked back.
It was only the Andalusians’ third success in eight and having been beaten by Valencia at the weekend, Sevilla have lost three of their four games before and after their first leg triumph. But Emery’s men possess one of Europe’s strongest home records – reason aplenty to hop on the hosts.
A shock reverse to Real Sociedad at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 10 days ago ended a stunning 17-match winning streak in front of their home supporters that included downing Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Thursday’s visitors Bilbao back in January. All in all, Sevilla have triumphed in 21 of their 25 home fixtures this term.
Since 2013/14, Los Rojiblancos have won 37/54 (69%) fixtures when welcoming La Liga opposition, 22 of which were achieved by two or more goals. When hosting top-half teams in that sample, Sevilla have W13-D6-L8, only failing to net in five of those 27 encounters.
The Andalusians are on a record-breaking run of 11 straight home successes in Europa League action and the two-time defending champions have suffered just one defeat in 17 when taking on Athletic in their fortress backyard.
Bilbao head south having rested players in their 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, their only win in five matches. Once again Ernesto Valverde’s troops looked shaky in defensive areas without key defensive star Aymeric Laporte and the Basques have already been beaten eight times on away La Liga duty this term.
Les Leones have managed to score in all 13 of their continental clashes but their W3-D1-L3 record on the road in the Europa League this season is a little sketchy, as is their return on their travels under Valverde in domestic action (W20-D12-L22).
In 2015/16, Athletic have W1-D1-L5 as guests to the top-half in La Liga, making their league return at the top-10 during Valverde’s tenure read W3-D7-L15 – Bilbao being silenced in 14 of those 25 contests.
It’s more than enough reason to invest in Sevilla sealing their semi-final spot with a win.
Sevilla v Athletic Bilbao – Sevilla to win (21/20 Bet365)
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