EUROPEAN football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) reckons he’s a few value bets from the early Europa League kick-offs on Thursday.
Astana v Olympiakos | Thursday 16:00 | BT Sport Extra
Astana were beaten 4-1 when they travelled to Olympiakos a fortnight ago but I reckon the Kazakh champions can pick up a positive result when they welcome the Greek giants to the Astana Arena in Thursday’s early kick-off.
The hosts have collected just a solitary point from their three Europa League encounters against Olympiakos, Young Boys and APOEL but remain a tough nut to crack in front of their home supporters.
It’s a 4,000km trip east for the visitors and with Astana unbeaten in 10 games against European opposition (W5-D5-L0), I’m keen to put my support behind Stanimir Stoilov’s side.
Astana clinched a third successive domestic title last week and the Bulgarian boss has already targeted a strong conclusion to their Europa League campaign knowing crucial UEFA ranking points are up for grabs. The aim is to secure seeding in next season’s Champions League qualification draw.
So there’s plenty to play for in the home camp who enjoyed the better of their only home tie against Young Boys (0-0) this term. Celtic, Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Galatasaray have all failed to win here in the past year so seeing Olympiakos fail to collect maximum points isn’t unthinkable.
888 are offering 5/6 quotes on Astana +0.50 in the Asian Handicap market – a selection that would see us pick up profit should the Kazakhs avoid defeat in a freezing conditions expected.
Having won another Greek crown with six games to spare and by a 30-point margin, Olympiakos endured a difficult spell over the summer.
Head coach Marco Silva resigned unexpectedly and former Deportivo boss Victor Sanchez was given only two games in charge after inexplicably failing to progress in the Champions League qualifiers against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
Paolo Bento has since picked up the pieces and survived Europa League qualifying and since guided The Legend to W9-D0-L2 across all competitions.
Young Boys (1-0) were beaten away and Astana (4-1) seen off in Piraeus but APOEL turned the group favourites over in their own backyard and Olympiakos’ performances just haven’t completely convinced on the continent.
Since 2013, the visitors have W5-D1-L9 on their European travels and although the bulk of those games came in the Champions League, Olympiakos have still failed to win in Anderlecht, Levante and Malmo over the past 24 months.
Zorya v Feyenoord | Thursday 18:00 | BT Sport Extra
Defeat for Zorya on Thursday night would almost certainly sink the Ukrainians’ chances of clinching knockout qualification with club from Luhansk have taken just one point from a possible nine against Fenerbahce (1-1), Manchester United (0-1) and Thursday’s opposition Feyenoord (0-1) thus far.
Head coach Yuriy Vernydub spoke about his side’s lack of fortune in those three clashes, saying “We have conceded goals in added time or after weird deflections or silly defensive errors. But we have to learn. ” He’s not wrong.
Fenerbahce levelled in stoppage-time during their matchday one meeting in Luhansk – it was the Turks only major opportunity from only their second attempt from inside Zorya’s penalty box, denying the Ukrainians a win.
Manchester United enjoyed the lion’s share of the game at Old Trafford but the Red Devils only managed two shots on-target in their 1-0 success – Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal arriving from a miscued Wayne Rooney effort.
And a fortnight ago in the Netherlands, Zorya lost to Feyenoord thanks to Nicolai Jorgensen’s goal with the forward capitalising on a mistake from Mikhail Sivakov. Fine margins, eh?
Zorya goalkeeper Oleksii Shevchenko has conceded only 12 goals in 16 matches in league and Europa League action this term but viewing purely continental action, the hosts have seen their three fixtures feature a total expected goals figure of just 5.34 with an average of just four shots on-target.
They’re miniscule figures that are fairly similar to with how the pool is panning out. Four of the six group-games have concluded in 1-0 scorelines and a similar result could be on the cards here, hence why I’ll be backing Under 2.25 Goals at 22/23 (188BET).
This selection would see us pick up a full-stakes profit if one or zero goals are scored but we’ll still make a half-stakes profit should exactly two goals are notched. Three or more goals will see our bet sink.
Visitors Feyenoord saw their winning streak in the Eredivisie end 10 days ago during Der Klassiker with Ajax (1-1) and although Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side returned to wining ways by beating Excelsior 4-0, a 2-2 weekend draw with Heerenveen has closed their lead at the top of the table.
During Europa League action, the Rotterdam giants secured 1-0 home wins against Manchester United and Zorya but lost in unfortunate circumstances in Fenerbahce (1-0). Feyenoord have also claimed five wins from five Eredivisie road trips.
However, van Bronckhorst’s men are only averaging just over 5.50 attempts from inside the opposition penalty box and I’m not sure they boast the nous to open this game up into an end-to-end shootout.
Athletic Bilbao v Genk | Thursday 18:00 | BT Sport Extra
A fortnight ago I earmarked Genk as a slice of Asian Handicap value for their encounter with Athletic Bilbao. The Belgians did the business with a 2-0 triumph but unfortunately Jamaican speedster Leon Bailey failed to grab a goal.
The Smurfs are again chalked up as outsiders for the reverse showdown at San Mames and whilst I’ve absolutely no qualms with such pricing, I do reckon Peter Maes’ men can trouble the Basques once more.
Both Teams To Score can be snapped up at odds-against quotes of 17/16 (888) and that’s just too big to ignore.
Genk have W5-D1-L1 in their past seven, scoring at least twice in five of those fixtures. But it’s the Blauw-Wit’s performances on Europa League duty, which really starts to stand out to me.
The Smurfs have played with the handbrake off – their three outings have featured a total of 86 shots and only seven sides have fired in more efforts (43) after three matchdays. The visitors have taken 34 attempts from inside the opposition penalty box and landed 21 shots on-target.
This is the Belgians third Europa League group-stage campaign since 2012/13 and their record in Europe during that time is a very healthy W18-D9-L4 including qualifiers and W8-D7-L3 when excluding preliminaries.
But it’s BTTS we’re after and Maes’ men have leaked in nine of their last 11 league and Europa League dates so are unlikely to keep the might of Athletic quiet at their San Mames cathedral.
Bilbao put in a excellent display when going down 2-1 at Real Madrid following their Genk loss but were disappointing when being held to a 1-1 draw with newly-promoted Osasuna last time out.
Ernesto Valverde’s troops need to find their grove once more but their W4-D1-L1 season-long return as hosts should give fans of Les Leones hopes here. Only Barcelona have departed with a victory but crucially for us, only Rapid Vienna have failed to score in that six-game sample.
Astana v Olympiakos – Astana +0.50 Asian Handicap (5/6 888)
Zorya v Feyenoord – Under 2.25 Goals (22/23 188BET)
Athletic Bilbao v Genk – Both Teams To Score (17/16 888)