THE boss Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) has trawled through his big book of stats to unearth the best value Anytime Goalscorer from Thursday's Europa League football.
AC Milan v Dudelange | Thursday 29th November 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
With speculation surrounding a possible return to San Siro for Zlatan Ibrahimovic rife, AC Milan marksman Gonzalo Higuain is well aware that the temper tantrum that saw him sent off against Juventus a fortnight ago is far from ideal if he wishes to remain with the Rossoneri.
Still suspended from Serie A, the Argentinean ace will be given the opportunity to redeem himself on Thursday night when leading the line for Rino Gattuso’s group when they welcome minnows Dudelange to San Siro. And Higuain is chalked up at just 1/2 to get on the scoresheet this midweek.
Gattuso’s confirmed that AC will play two men in attack here as Milan look to confirm their place in the Europa League knockout stages, and the Rossoneri should run out comfortable victors on home soil. The hosts are in the midst of a major injury crisis but performed with aplomb when holding Lazio on Sunday.
Gattuso has warned his team ‘not to make fools of ourselves’ and has promised the Milan public his team will be fully focussed on the job in-hand. Indeed, during the reverse encounter, supporters were unimpressed with the Rossoneri’s complacent attitude as they battled to an unconvincing 1-0 triumph.
Visitors Dudelange became the first club from Luxembourg to reach the main stage of European competition since 1995. Several of the squad are still semi-professional and the club had to swiftly contact eight of their employers to secure full-time release for the upcoming continental schedule.
The boys from the Bourg have lost all four of their pool fixtures, by an aggregate 11-1, and have conceded eight goals in trips to Real Betis (0-3) and Olympiakos (1-5). The visitors have actually leaked at least twice in each of their most recent four encounters and managed a sole shutout in 14 fixtures since mid-September.
That should encourage a Milan side, as well as Higuain to put on an impressive show. The Rossoneri’s top goal-getter this season is averaging a goal every 158 minutes in Serie A and Europa League action, notching seven times in his last 11 appearances, including two in three in this competition.
With odds so short on Higuain finding the back of the net here, it’s remarkable to find we can back the Milan to win and Higuain to score double at a price as big as 23/10 (Betway). The AC hitman has registered five of his seven goals at San Siro, averages 0.51 xG per-game and 3.21 shots, 41% of which are on-target.
Malmo v Genk | Thursday 29th November 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
Genk were Europa League quarter-finalists in 2016/17 and breezed through qualification, firing in 22 goals in just six games against Fola Esch, Lech Poznan and Brondby. The Smurfs have largely continued their hot form in this competition during the group-phase, heading Group I after four matchdays.
Domestically, Philippe Clement’s charges are flying (W10-D5-L1), leading defending champions Club Brugge by three points. Ukrainian playmaker and dead-ball specialist Ruslan Malinovskiy, plus strikers Leandro Trossard and Mbwana Samatta have proven constant menaces for an enterprising Smurfs side.
No team in Belgium’s top-tier are averaging more shots at goal, landing more efforts on-target or generating a higher xG figure. Meanwhile, the visitors have already plundered 48 goals across their 20 First Division A and Europa League matches, hitting the woodwork on a further eight occasions.
Genk are well ahead of Thursday’s hosts Malmo in the UEFA team coefficients and Sweden also trails Belgium convincingly in the country rankings, so the guests are understandable favourites, available to back at no bigger than 6/5. The Smurfs were comfortable winners in the reverse contest and fancied to repeat the feat here.
Malmo made an atrocious start to the defence of their title success but found their range following the June appointment of Uwe Rosler. The Sky Blues suffered a sole reverse domestically under the German boss and concluded the campaign in third, nine points off the summit of the Allsvenskan.
Fans will point to their 2-0 triumph over Besiktas in early October as evidence to suggest they can match Genk here, although the Turks are undergoing a terrible time of it in 2018/19 and Genk’s attack-minded approach could pay dividends.
The Smurfs are averaging 2.69 goals per-game when viewing league and Europa League showdowns, notching twice or more in each of their last 10, smashing four goals or more in seven of those encounters. The Belgians are generating 2.39 xG across the campaign, firing in over 18 efforts at goal per-game.
There are a host of candidates to choose from here but I’ll plump for top goalscorer Mbwana Samatta at 9/5 (Betway). The Genk striker has racked up 19 goals across all competitions this term, at a rate of one every 102 minutes. The Tanzanian has already managed three goals in the Europa League group-stage.
When looking at his performances in the First Division A and Europa League, Samatta is posting 0.68 xG per-game, averaging 3.19 shots per-game with 47% hitting the target. Only twice this season has the 25-year-old not attempted at least efforts at goal and he’s bound to play a big part in Genk’s challenge here.