TWO bets for Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) in the early Europa League games on Thursday. Do you agree with Mark’s picks?
Wolfsburg v Inter Milan | Thursday 18.00 | ITV4
The pick of the early kick-offs pits Wolfsburg and Inter Milan together and this two-legged tie has the makings of a classic. Wolfsburg were beaten for the first time since November on Saturday at Augsburg but back at the Volkswagen Areana, Dieter Hecking’s men will be expected to return to winning ways.
The Wolves had their chances on Saturday but for once their high-powered offence failed to produce the goods. But they’ve not failed to score in consecutive games since October 2013 and with the Bundesliga title race effectively over, we should expect Hecking to field a strong team as they pursue their first ever European trophy.
The hosts have scored at least twice in each of their last five home games and I’d be happy to side with Wolfsburg but we’ll add Both Teams To Score into the mix too. Inter have the potential to grab an away goal, even if Roberto Mancini’s return has failed to spark any consistent run in Serie A.
Clean sheets have been very hard to come by for the Nerazzurri with only six in 21 matches under Mancini’s charge with 11 goals leaked in their past six road trips. However, Inter do carry an attacking threat, as seen in their fight back from two goals down to claim a point at Napoli on Sunday.
Mauro Icardi has shouldered the goalscoring burden for the majority of the season but Xherdan Shaqiri and Fredy Guarín have been amongst the goals in recent weeks and Wolfsburg’s all-out approach should present the visitors with chances. Should they tuck one away, a bet on Wolfsburg to win and Both Teams To Score should pay-out at a handsome 27/10 with Bwin.
It’s a bet that’s paid out in seven of Wolfsburg’s 13 victories at the Volkswagen Arena this term and with Inter netting in six of their last eight on the road, I reckon we’ve a nice runner to cheer on.
Club Brugge v Besiktas | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport 2
Club Brugge might be defending an unbeaten record in this season’s Europa League but the Belgian table-toppers are yet opposition of any notable standard. A visit from Besiktas will no doubt be their toughest test to date.
Brugge safely negotiated the group phase with fixtures against HJK and Copenhagen while Torino struggled to find their feet in the first-half of the season. AaB were comfortably seen off in the Last 32 but Besiktas, conquerors of Liverpool, are sure to test the credentials of Michel Preud'homme’s men.
Club have W17-D7-L0 in their 24 matches at the Jan Breydel Stadium in all competitions this season but it’s worth pointing out that Copenhagen and Torino both came away with creditable draws while HJK only lost 2-1. In Europa League qualifying, Grasshoppers of Switzerland were downed by a solitary goal. So it’s clear that the Belgian hosts aren’t quite as dominant as the results suggest when they come up against decent opposition.
Besiktas can be backed at a weird 1040/1000 (that’s about 21/20 to us) with Ladbrokes having been given a +0.25 start on the Asian Handicap line and that holds plenty of appeal. Taking this selection means we’ll make money should the Turks avoid defeat or come away with an away win.
Slaven Bilic’s charges saw off Sivasspor 1-0 on the road at the weekend, putting an end to three successive defeats on their travels. But their road form has been impressive this season. Since the start of the season, Besiktas have W14-D3-L5, winning away at Feyenoord and Partizan, holding Spurs and Asteras to draws on the road and only losing out by a single goal when visiting Arsenal and Liverpool.
Bilic will ensure the Black Eagles are supremely organised and prepared and I fancy them to avoid defeat.
Wolfsburg v Inter Milan – Wolfsburg to win and Both Teams To Score (27/10 Bwin)
Club Brugge v Besiktas – Besiktas +0.25 Asian Handicap (1040/1000 Ladbrokes)
What’s your best bet from the early Europa League games?
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