Europa League: Expect goals galore in appetising encounter

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WORLD football fanatic James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at the best betting opportunities from Thursday's Europa League coupon in games not involving British clubs.

Salzburg v Club Brugge | Thursday 21st February 2019, 17:55 | BT Sport

Club Brugge stung us when tipping Salzburg to score at least twice in the first leg as the Belgians did exactly that themselves in securing a 2-1 first leg victory to take into this away contest. They will be happy with that outcome considering they went a goal behind, but a tough challenge awaits them in Austria if they’re to progress into the next round.

Salzburg are very much proven at this level and made it all the way to the semi-finals of this competition last season. They were unfortunate not to get past Marseille on that occasion too, and that memory very much remains.

Another positive for Salzburg is that they are also back in domestic action following the long winter break. They won in the OFB Cup at the weekend and resume league action on Sunday. They will be better for the first leg showing, so perhaps a 2-1 deficit isn’t too bad from their perspective either.

One thing we can say about Salzburg at home is that they are incredibly tough to beat. Believe it or not, November 2016 was the last time they tasted defeat here of any kind. Keep in mind they have defeated clubs such as Marseille, Lazio, Real Sociedad, Celtic and Leipzig in that period, whilst also holding Borussia Dortmund to a draw. They appear in a domestic league of which they are coasting at the top, and every team raises their game when they face them. Ignore that home record at your peril.

Club Brugge are not easily ignored despite Salzburg proving a tough nut to crack. After all, it is very much advantage Club Brugge going into this second leg. They will take heart from the fact despite being eliminated from their Champions League group earlier in that competition, they still performed quite admirably. They won 4-0 away in Monaco, whilst they kept a clean sheet in Borussia Dortmund when drawing 0-0.

However, Brugge have generally been quite inconsistent on the road this season. In fact, over their last 14 away in all competitions, they’ve only won three. Of course, they don’t necessarily need to win this game but there is still a vulnerability about them.

We think Salzburg will be too hot to handle on this occasion and will win the game. They’ve used to these type of occasions and know how to get the job done. They’re a small price on the 1×2 market, but for Salzburg To Qualify we can get 4/5 (Sportingbet).

Zenit v Fenerbahce | Thursday 21st February 2019, 17:55 | BT Sport

Zenit were another side to go into the first leg experiencing a domestic winter break. They suffered a 1-0 setback on the night away in Fenerbahce, but it could have been a different story if they converted a first half penalty, which they did not. That away goal could have been priceless, but they’re still very much in this tie as they welcome the Turks to Russia.

Fenerbahce are actually in a relegation battle in the Turkish top flight after a remarkably bad season. Relegation is unthinkable, but they should probably have enough in the remaining games to see them safe, at the very least. There were even some whispers prior to the first leg that a weakened team would be named as the league remains their priority. They made some changes for sure, but still won the game.

The Turks go into the second leg missing a few players too, but they’ll be hopeful of getting the job done.
Just like Salzburg in the column above, this game presents a team with a very strong home record. Zenit are a completely different animal when appearing on the road, so perhaps a 1-0 setback in leg one was as good as they could have hoped for. Their performance warranted more, which serves as a big boost going into this home encounter.

Zenit have won their last nine straight in front of their own supporters, which included three pointers over Slavia Prague, Bordeaux and Copenhagen in their three Europa League home contests from earlier in the campaign. The last time they lost a domestic home game was back in April 2018 versus Krasnodar, who also remain in this season’s Europa League.

The Russians have been regulars in this competition since 2015. During that period, only one side has defeated them at home, and that was Israeli outfit Bnei Yehuda.

On the flip side, Fenerbahce do not travel well at all. In fact, only one two occasions in all competition have they tasted victory on the road this season. One of which was in a domestic cup competition. They did draw away to Anderlecht in the group stages in a 2-2 draw; a result which would see them through on this occasion.

However, they will have to expect the full force of Zenit and there are big doubts as to if Fenerbahce can withstand that.

I can only look towards Zenit winning this inside the 90-minutes to at the very least take this into extra time. 101/100 (Royal Panda) is a great price all things considered, and should be snapped up whilst you can get it.

Real Betis v Rennes | Thursday 21st February 2019, 20:05 | BT Sport

There were not too many first leg games to really catch the eye in the Europa League last Thursday, but this clash was very much the exception.

Rennes entertained Betis in France and raced into a 2-0 lead inside 10 minutes, and led 3-1 after 45 minutes. The Spaniards battled back to take a 3-3 draw into leg two, and they are the side with the momentum it would appear. Remarkably, but perhaps not surprisingly for any regular La Liga viewer, Betis enjoyed over 70% possession on the night.

Betis play a very patient passing game and can sometimes be accused of lacking end product at times. They do certainly lack a big time striker, which is proven by the fact their top scorer this season is on-loan creative midfielder Giovani Lo Celso. They will therefore take great heart from the fact they scored three times on the road, meaning that they have the advantage of three away games going into the home tie.

Rennes however will be no pushovers and proved their credentials in the first leg despite throwing away a two-goal advantage after the restart. They have Hatem Ben Arfa in attack and he remains unplayable on his day. He loves the big occasion and the Betis defence will again have to be wary of his exploits, along with former Milan and Watford man N’Baye Niang.

Rennes have some decent away scalps this season as well, defeating both Lyon and Monaco in Ligue 1, as well as drawing to St Etienne and Marseille. Rennes ultimately have to try and score in this game, and Betis will look to dominate the ball as usual, so the French outfit might have to be patient.

As much as Betis play a nice passing style, it is quite a high risk strategy. Quite often they are one mislaid pass or poor control away from being split apart themselves. Although they have the advantage as things stand, this remains intriguing placed and tactics will be key. Betis have just two clean sheets from their last 15 in all competitions; one of which was actually at home to Atletico Madrid when beating them 1-0 at home earlier this month.

Having seen quite a bit of these two this season, and with the first leg being as it was, we like Both Teams To Score again, which is available at 10/11.

Best Bets

Salzburg v Club Brugge – Salzburg to qualify (4/5 Sportingbet)

Zenit v Fenerbahce – Zenit to win (101/100 Royal Panda)

Real Betis v Rennes – Both Teams To Score (10/11 Bet365)

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