THE EUROPA LEAGUE Last 32 gets underway on Thursday night as Chelsea travel to Sweden to face Malmo. Adam Goodwin (@AdamGoodwin__) shares his betting thoughts.
Malmo v Chelsea | Thursday 14th February 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport
Malmo haven’t been in competitive action since their last Europa League game on the 13th December, with the Swedish Allsvenskan season not starting until the start of March. They’ve played a couple of friendlies in recent weeks, losing to Krasnodar and drawing with Dynamo Kyiv, but I don’t think you can read too much into that.
They ended last season in great form, losing just one game of their final 20 (W14-D5-L1), a run which saw them climb up to third. That run coincided with the appointment of former Leeds and Wigan manager Uwe Rosler, who now has a 60% win percentage as Malmo manager, and he’ll be hoping to improve that on Thursday.
The Blues have had a decent record at home in the Europa League this campaign, not losing any of their four games at Swedbank Stadion in this competition. They beat a strong Besiktas side and drew with Genk this season, scoring four goals in those two games alone.
Malmo have actually drawn 5/8 (63%) of their last Europa League/UEFA Cup games, a run which stretches back to 2011.
Things seem to be falling apart for Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea as they look to recover from that humiliating defeat at the weekend, when Manchester City hit them for six. There were also reports that some Chelsea first-team players were held to a 3-3 draw by a youth team in a practice match at the club’s training ground on Monday. It’s safe to say that they need to bounce back with a win on Thursday.
This Chelsea side needs freshening up and, if I was Sarri, I’d start Ethan Ampadu, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi here – none of whom started that 6-0 defeat to City. Whether it’ll be Gonzalo Higuain or Olivier Giroud starting up-front is yet to be seen, but after a poor performance from the former on Sunday, perhaps Giroud will be given the nod.
Both of Chelsea’s wins away from home in the Europa League this season have been by the one goal and they drew their final group game 2-2 with Vidi, so they’ve been far from convincing in this competition. Especially with the form they’ve been in recently, I wouldn’t be rushing to back them at 2/5.
The betting angle
If Chelsea win this, I can’t see it being pretty. Chelsea to win by one goal has landed in 3/6 (50%) of their games in this competition so far this season and I think it looks a good price at 143/50 with Marathon.
I will have a small put on the draw at 4/1 with BetVictor too, because if Sarri’s side play as poorly as they have done in recent weeks, a half decent Malmo side might be able to catch the West London side cold here.