DEBUTANT contributor Ben Levene (@BenLevene96) picks out his favourite fancies from Thursday’s Europa League qualifier as Everton welcome Hajduk Split to Goodison Park.
Everton v Hajduk Split | Thursday 17th August 2017, 19:45 | YouTube
After a busy summer, Everton are hopeful of a strong campaign. As well as breaking into the top-six, the Toffees’ will have an eye on running deep in the Europa League this season.
Gyfli Sigurdsson looks set to join a lengthy list of additions that already boasts Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Cuco Martina, Davy Klaasen, Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez.
Ronald Koeman has his side disciplined and well-organised. During the Europa League qualifiers with Ruzomberok and Saturday’s Premier League opener at Stoke, Koeman toyed with a back-three as well as last season’s trusted 4-3-2-1 system.
Interestingly, all three of these fixtures saw Everton win by the single goal but what is most significant here is that they have kept a clean sheet in all three competitive fixtures this season.
Slow starting Split
Their opponents on Thursday evening, Hajduk Split, overcame Brondby in the previous qualification round. They drew 0-0 in Denmark before winning 2-0 in Croatia. Prior to that they oversaw Levski Sofia.
It is worth noting that that just one of Split’s five qualification goals came in the first-half, and that was a penalty. This is a theme that’s also held true domestically. The Croatian league is five games old and in their three most recent league matches Split have also failed to score in the opening 45 minutes.
Two-legged affairs tend to be cagey and over the last few seasons the likes of Atletico Madrid and Juventus have shown us the importance of being defensively sound during these fixtures.
Everton will control the game and have to be patient as was the case in both 1-0 victories against Ruzomberok. The pace of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has given Everton a different dimension so far this season with his running in behind and that could play a big part over the two legs as the Toffees will largely play in front of Split.
We’ve seen through West Ham and Southampton in recent seasons that Europa League qualifiers can be tricky and so I think we can expect an interesting duel.
The betting angles
A shrewd shout looks to be keeping Under 2.5 Goals on side at a generous odds-against price (23/20 BetVictor). It’s a feat that’s been achieved in all three of Everton’s competitive games this season and in three of Hajduk Split’s four European qualifiers.
An Everton clean sheet is best-priced at a short 4/6 and given a thrashing doesn’t look to be on the cards, you’re getting decent value on two or less goals.
Everton v Hajduk Split – Under 2.5 Goals (23/20 BetVictor)