EUROPEAN football expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) made us a small fortune on the Europa League last season. Here's his favourite fancies from Thursday's evening kick-offs.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva v Lugano | Thursday 14th September 2017, 20:05
Hapoel Be’er Sheva aren’t attractively priced to start their Group G campaign with a victory over Lugano but we can support the Israeli champions to succeed at odds-against quotes of 23/20 when adding Over 1.5 Goals to the equation.
The Camels dominated their domestic division last term, taking the title by a 13-point winning margin and losing just three of 36 games along the way. Barak Bakhar’s squad is brimming with internationals and were only denied a place in the Champions League on away goals by Maribor.
Indeed, Be’er Sheva were the better side in both legs of that tie and were reasonably comfortable winners when welcoming the Slovenians, as well as Ludgorets and Honved to their Turner Stadium home already this season.
Having also beaten Inter Milan home and away in last season’s Europa League, Bakhar’s boys will fancy their chances of progressing from a soft pool having also kept hold of Nigerian striker Anthony Kwakaeme in the transfer window.
Lugano lost 3-0 at Young boys at the weekend with Brazilian striker Carlinhos seeing red. He’ll be available for Thursday night as the Swiss side make their first venture into European competition since 1995/96.
Only promoted to the top-flight in 2015, Lugano finished a creditable third last term but lost a third of their 36 fixtures and shipped a whopping 61 goals in the process. The visitors have lost 10/22 (45%) away Swiss Super League matches since the start of last season with 18 (82%) seeing Over 1.5 Goals land.
What’s more, the summer departure of Ezgjan Alioski to Leeds – scorer of 16 goals and provider of 14 assists – is likely to hurt the side hard with Younes Bnou Marzouk now shouldering the attacking burden. In five of their seven encounters thus far, the visitors have failed to score more than a solitary goal.
Vitesse Arnhem v Lazio | Thursday 14th September 2017, 20:05 | BT Sport
Europa League punting can be a trappy affair without good grounding in the sides you’re looking to support or oppose. Getting hold of team news can be an arduous affair so a big thanks to Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi who revealed he’d be chopping and changing his side well in advance.
Usually I’d be seduced by almost even-money quotes on the Biancocelesti bagging maximum points in Arnhem on Thursday night; the Serie A side have already beaten Juventus in the Italian Super Cup and picked up seven points from a possible nine (W2-D1-L0) in league action.
Lazio could (and should) really boast a 100% record after dominating SPAL in their campaign’s curtain-raiser despite drawing 0-0 and Sunday’s 4-1 thrashing of Milan was just as impressive as the final score sounds.
However, the Eagles have decided Sunday’s visit to Genoa is of more importance and Inzaghi is set to leave Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Basta, Senan Lulic, Wallace, Simone Palombi, Stefan Radu and Stefan de Vrij out through either injury or rotational reasons.
Immobile scored 23 goals last season but none of the rest of Lazio’s squad managed more than five and with Wallace, Radu and de Vrij all absent, Lucas Leiva seems likely to fill the centre-back void for the Romans.
It’s therefore easy to see why Lazio are on the drift in the pre-match markets but they remain an odds-on shot across the board at quotes I’ve just got to oppose. I’ll be backing Vitesse with a +0.50 start on the Asian Handicap line at 42/41 (BetVictor) here.
The Dutch side have had a gentle introduction to the new Eredivisie season, claiming three victories from four, all against bottom-six opposition. Henk Fraser’s men have scored 11 goals already and in Luc Castaignos, Tim Matavz, Thomas Bruns and Bryan Linssen have the firepower to trouble Lazio.
There’s a buoyant mood around the city following their first ever Dutch Cup triumph and their highest league position this century (fifth) so I wouldn’t rule out backing the Arnhem outfit scoring Over 1.5 Goals here at 12/5 (Bet365) either.
They may have managed a sole point and just one goal in four encounters at home to the Eredivisie’s top-four last term but the GelreDome will be rocking for this contest under the lights and Lazio’s much-changed XI should give the hosts a great chance of delivering a positive result.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva v Lugano – Hapoel Be’er Sheva to win and Over 1.5 Goals (23/20 BetStars)
Vitesse Arnhem v Lazio – Vitesse Arnhem +0.50 Asian Handicap (42/41 BetVictor)