Spartak Moscow v Villarreal | Thursday 4th October 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
Spartak Moscow were unable to successfully defend their Russian Premier League title last season but a third-place finish and keeping hold of successful head coach Massimo Carrera can be deemed a positive of sorts.
The Italian led the country’s biggest club to their first league winners medal in 16 years and heads into his second full season with a clearly defined philosophy. Having learnt his trade under Antonito Conte, Carrera has built the Red-Whites on organisation and defensive stability.
Like Conte, the Spartak boss brings animation to the touchline, often attending post-match press conferences drenched in sweat due to his constant prowling of the touchline. His commitment has galvanised the club, although a slow start (W4-D3-L2) already has the Moscow men playing catch-up domestically.
The summer departure of Quincy Promes was a major blow for the capital club. The Dutch winger was undoubtedly Spartak’s star and perhaps the biggest attraction in the Russian Premier League, and Thursday night’s hosts have certainly missed his inspiration and invention in forward areas.
Spartak have scored just seven goals – four fewer than xG has forecast – across their opening nine league outings. In five fixtures at their Otkritie Arena base, the Red-Whites have only once managed to score more than a solitary strike, while their 2-0 loss at Rapid Vienna saw Carrera’s charges land only one effort on-target.
Nevertheless, the hosts’ continued defensive resilience have kept them competitive. Spartak have recorded five clean sheets in league action already and lost just six home Russian Premier League games in 34 here under Carrera, keeping 19 (56%) clean sheets.
A chunky 20 (59%) of those tussles paid out for Under 2.5 Goals backers and a repeat appeals at 20/23 (BetVictor). It’s already landed in 10 of their 13 matches across all competitions in 2018/19.
The home side will be without up to eight players on Thursday night with Pedro Rocha a doubt, and Samuel Gigot, Ilya Kutepov, Marko Petkovic, Alexander Selikhov, Luiz Adriano, Roman Eremenko, Denis Glushakov plus Andrey Eshchenko all ruled out, hardly ideal against an astute Villarreal outfit.
The Spaniards are winless on home soil this season but have kept their sheets clean in each of their past three away days. Last time out the Yellow Submarine were gubbed by Real Valladolid, the La Liga outfit wit the smallest budget in the division, with their own lack of goals costing the guests dear.
Javier Calleja’s men have fired four blanks in their opening seven league dates, and managed more than single goal once thus far. Defensively, four shutouts have been kept domestically and that lack of goalmouth action has led to five profitable Under 2.5 Goals selections from seven in La Liga.
Sarpsborg v Genk | Thursday 4th October 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
We correctly outlined a bet on Genk to overcome Malmo in a match featuring Over 1.5 Goals on matchday one and I’m keen to follow the same theme on Thursday when the Belgians head to Sarpsborg.
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 now targeted a place in the knockout stages having been given a decent draw.
Domestically, Philippe Clement’s charges have been flying (W7-D2-L0), trailing table-toppers Club Brugge by two points. Ukrainian playmaker and dead-ball specialist Ruslan Malinovskiy, plus strikers Leandro Trossard and Mbwana Samatta have proven constant menaces for an enterprising Genk 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. The visitors have already plundered 26 league goals and hit the woodwork on a further five occasions.
My proposed play is available to back at 10/11 (Ladbrokes) and it’s a poke that’s paid out in 17 of their 20 matches dating back to May.
Sarpsborg’s European debut saw the Norwegian outfit lose just twice in eight through the preliminary rounds to reach the group-stage. The minnows did put up a decent fight away at Besiktas in their opener but that loss was just one of seven they’ve suffered on the spin since mid-August.
The Norwegian league is a pretty large 27 points behind their Belgian rivals in UEFA’s coefficients overperforming domestically in both boxes by around a seven-goal swing, I’m happy to oppose them here.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Lazio | Thursday 4th October 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
Of the 30 cup winners to enter the Europa League qualification stage, only one side progressed as far as the group-stage – AEK Larnaca of Cyprus.
Cup winners from Germany are one of the few nations to book an automatic berth in the Europa League pool and Eintracht Frankfurt upset the odds to overcome Marseille in the Stade Velodrome in their opener.
The French club were playing in front of an empty stadium following UEFA sanctions and somehow contrived to chuck away a match they were largely in control of. Eintracht scored from a corner, and then again on the break to seal a 2-1 success from behind, surviving a number of late calls for a penalty.
Die Adler shocked German football supporters when ousting Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal finale last May, whilst also tabling a top-half finish under Niko Kovac. However, the Croatian was lured away by Bayern in the summer and the club have since moved to bring in Adi Hutter.
Hutter was the first Austrian to win a league title abroad as his success with Young Boys last term ended Basel’s eight-year monopoly in Switzerland. But the new boss has been hampered in his early exchanges following the departure of a number of key players in the off-season.
Eintracht’s most creative player, Marius Wolf, joined Dortmund and the mercurial Kevin-Prince Boateng departed, along with Lucas Hradecky and Omar Mascarell weakening the ranks. Die Adler then suffered the ignominy of a first round DFB Pokal exit to lower league opposition, heightening tensions.
The Bundesliga boys are also in the midst of an unfavourable amount of injuries and suspensions. Jetro Willems, Carlos Salcedo, Timothy Chandler, Goncalo Paciencia, Marco Fabian, Taleb Tawatha, Francisco Geraldes are unavailable as Frankfurt look to follow up Sunday’s thrilling 4-1 win over Hannover.
Hutter has managed to steady the ship but Eintracht have rode their luck in domestic action, giving Lazio plenty of encouragement.
The Romans are looking to bounce back from their derby day defeat on Saturday and will be without Jordan Lukaku and Stefan Radu for the trip to Germany. Nevertheless, the Biancocelesti had bagged five successive triumphs prior to the weekend and Simone Inzaghi’s attack-minded outfit will be looking to make their mark.
Lazio have notched in 10 of their past 11 away Europa League ties since 2015, eight of which saw Both Teams To Score bank. The same selection provided profit in 29/42 (69%) Serie A games as guests, as well as eight of Eintracht’s nine outings across all competitions in 2018/19. A repeat is 8/11 (Betfair).