Europa League: Goals set to flow in Last 16 deciders

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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.

Benfica v Dinamo Zagreb | Thursday 14th March 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport

They say you should never overreact to one result, whether that be good or bad. However, there were too many alarm bells in Benfica’s draw to Belenenses, which is putting me off.

I’ll be honest with you, I pinpointed this game as a potential tie I’d tackle for this article over the weekend, before Benfica played on Monday. I found a good odds-against quote on them to qualify from this tie, despite holding a 1-0 first leg lead. That may still represent some value, but I’ve changed my mind.

The reason being is that they faced a Belenenses side that are strong away from home and give very little away. It was 0-0 at half time, but Benfica did race into a 2-0 lead either side of the hour mark, yet they still managed to draw 2-2. Whilst Belenenses aren’t a bad side, the reality was that Benfica were a 1/6 shot to win this game, and would’ve been incredible shorter at 2-0 ahead with 25 minutes remaining.

Dinamo Zagreb ultimately lead in the tie and could easily adopt a defensive approach themselves. Benfica will have to take some risks at some point, and they’d be a little nervous if they went into this encounter 0-0 at the break.

The Croats however won’t come necessarily looking to just park the bus, especially knowing the importance of scoring a goal themselves. They only conceded three times in the group stage earlier in the campaign, so they’ll quietly fancy their chances.

Benfica however are a side that does tend to find the back of the net, with the first leg away loss being a rare exception. My worry for them is that this could be a bit of a step too far. They do have a number of youngsters in their side at present, albeit very talented.

Dinamo Zagreb as the away side can play with a little more freedom, and whilst they too have many youngsters, they won’t have a big crowd potentially on their backs on the night.

There are a few plays I like in this one. Dinamo Zagreb To Qualify at 10/11 (Betfred) is one of them – I fancy them to score, and that’d put them in an excellent position. Therefore, Both Teams To Score is the other at 53/50 (Marathon).

I’ve decided against Dinamo Zagreb Double Chance as a 2-1 win for Benfica would still see the hosts go out.

Slavia Prague v Sevilla | Thursday 14th March 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport

The first leg between these two was certainly an entertaining affair, and it set up this second leg with everything very much still to play for.

Slavia Prague perhaps surprised many by netting two away goals and securing a 2-2 draw away in Sevilla last week. Whilst there was an element of luck about both goals they scored, and Sevilla missed some good chances to win the match, Slavia were still decent value for the draw.

They’ll fancy their chances of another upset here. Unsurprisingly, the bookies have Slavia as outsiders to win; considering the impact they made in the first leg, perhaps there is some value in that. Plus the fact that Sevilla do not tend to travel too well – they’ve not won an away match in La Liga since September.

However, Sevilla did win 1-0 at Lazio in the last round of the Europa League; again another example of them turning it on in this competition.

Both teams enter this encounter after big wins at the weekend in the league. Slavia won 4-0 at home to fifth in the table Ostrava, and they now have a six-point gap at the top of proceedings after 24 games. Sevilla hammered Real Socieded 5-2, but the main worry for the Spaniards is the sheer amount of goals that they’re conceded at present. They’ve kept only two in their last 10 in all competitions, both versus Lazio.

Slavia have made home soil something of a fortress this season. They’ve suffered defeat on only one occasion here, and that came all the way back in August. In their Europa League group, they failed to concede a single goal at home, and the same applied to the knockout clash with Genk. Sevilla are known for scoring however, so an exciting game is anticipated.

Having seen the first leg for myself, I’m pretty happy with the selection I’ve gone for. It is a match I do not see either side adopting a defensive stance. It is advantage Slavia with their away goals, so Sevilla will have to give this a go, and they’re already vulnerable defensively as it is.

Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score is available at 21/20 (William Hill).

Best Bets

Benfica v Dinamo Zagreb – Dinamo Zagreb To Qualify (10/11 Betfred)

Benfica v Dinamo Zagreb – Both Teams To Score (53/50 Marathon)

Slavia Prague v Sevilla – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (21/20 William Hill)

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