THE Europa League knockout stage kicks-off on Thursday. Tom Love (@TomLove_18) runs the rule over the best betting options.
Getafe v Ajax | Thursday 20th February 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
For me, Getafe have been the story of the season on the continent.
From the outset there looks like there’s very little going for the Madrid-based club. Largely in the shadow of capital giants Real and Atleti, Geta are always punching above their weight. Their Coliseum Alfonso Perez stadium only holds 17,000 fans and due to the catchment area they’re in, the majority support the big boys. But it’s that ‘us against the world’ mentality that has made them so successful in the past couple of years.
Manager Jose Bordalas deserve immense credit for getting the side into the knockout stages of the Europa League but deserves even more for having his side currently sit in third place in La Liga with the amount of games they have played, not to mention their relatively small size of their squad. It’s a phenomenal achievement.
It’s a no-frills philosophy, streetwise in their approach, Getafe are masters of the dark arts. Knowing how and when to kill opposition momentum is a key trait of theirs and it’s no surprise to see them up there in terms of bookings.
Bordalas adopts a simple 4-4-2 formation, very compact out of possession they love the ball being in front of them and their average possession is only better than neighbours Leganes, but possession counts for little if you’re happy to dominate the game without the ball.
El Geta's three strikers are all over the age of 30 but surprisingly their top scorer is Angel on 10 goals, despite him starting on the bench for the majority of games. The Spaniard has only started six league games but the wily duo of Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina batter and bruise centre halves and the freshness of Angel often wins them games.
Left midfielder Marc Cucurella was an inspired capture after a great season with Eibar last year whilst Jason on the other side offers a threat.
2019 Champions league semi-finalists Ajax are the visitors on Thursday and many will expect them to get through here given their European pedigree. The Amsterdam club are 8/15 best price to qualify, but this will be one almighty test.
Frenkie De Jong and Matias De Ligt both left in the summer and Erik Ten Haag is without wingers Quincy Promes and David Neres for their trip to Spain, defenders Joel Veltman and Perr Schurrs are also absent for De Godenzonen.
I’m always loathed to back away sides in first legs of double legged knockout games. The large majority will be happy to come away with a draw and the stalemate is always a player. With this in mind I’m happy to back the 20/21 quotes on Getafe Double Chance’ and Under 4 Goals by using Bet365’s BetBuilder.
Twenty of 24 Getafe La Liga games have seen three or fewer goals, as well as all of their six group stage Europa League fixtures. What’s more all but one of Ajax's Champions League group stage clashes featured fewer than four goals.
I think Getafe will be keen on keeping another clean sheet here and a narrow home win would not surprise me, however, the BetBuilder allows us to get the draw on side too which is a bonus and it’s still a very backable price.
Eintracht Frankfurt v RB Salzburg | Thursday 20th February 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
On paper this Germany vs Austria clash looks one of the more tantalising encounters of the Last 32 of the Europa league. It pits together two sides with an attacking ideology and that makes for a promising watch at the Commerzbank Arena on Thursday evening.
Interestingly, it’s Frankfurt who have an Austrian manager in Adi Hutter and since he came to the club the Eagles have been all about goals. It’s no surprise – Hutter was renowned for his rather gung-ho approach when winning the Swiss Super League title with Young Boys a few years back and previous to his spell in Bern he had a one-year stint as manager of Salzburg, so he should know all about the Red Bull-backed club.
It’s fair to say that Salzburg is a breeding ground for not only talented young players but also talented young managers. Hutter joins the likes of Roger Schmidt and Marco Rose as gaffers who have made their name at Die Mozartstadter and current manager Jesse Marsch will no doubt move on to new pastures in the next few years.
Marsch is a rare American manager who made the quite obvious transition from New York Red Bulls, he was the most successful manager in the clubs relatively short history but is held in high regard in the managerial arena.
His side gave it a real good go in a tough Champions League group but their defensive frailties proved their undoing. Going forward they were sublime with the front three of Hwang Hee-Chan, Takumi Minamino and Erling Haaland. It will have been expected that two if not all three would move on in January and the latter both moved to European giants in Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
However, no club does forward planning as well as Salzburg. They have players in line to be the next stars with Patson Daka, Sekou Koita and Karim Adeyemi, many won’t have heard of these players but I guarantee you will have in a year or two.
Salzburg will play in the same way they have all season and so will Frankfurt so that leads me straight to the goal markets and the 4/5 (SkyBet) on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score does appeal.
Salzburg's group stage Champions League game averaged an eye-watering 4.83 goals and even their form in the Europa League in past seasons hold up with nine of their last 10 games in this competition seeing three or more goals.
Looking at Frankfurt, they have seen 16/22 league games go Over 2.5 and six of their last seven Europa League games see overs cop with their last four seeing this bet land. It should be a cracking watch given the ethos of both clubs and hopefully the goals flow at both ends.
AZ Alkmaar v LASK Linz | Thursday 20th February 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
I’m also happy to attack goals in Holland as a youthful AZ Alkmaar side host surprise of the tournament, LASK Linz.
AZ have been a team I’ve kept a keen eye on for a good year or so now and there’s something special going on at the AFAS Stadion. With a genuine emphasis on promoting youth players into the first team, the humorously named ‘Cheeseheads’ have struck gold with their current roster and have around half a dozen saleable assets which could make the Zaanstreek club some decent cheddar.
It’s their front three of Oussama Idrissi, Calvin Stengs and Myron Boadu who will get the column inches, naturally so as they’re the ones who do the business at the top of the pitch. Stengs (21) and Boadu (19) both made the last Netherlands international squad as a result of their excellent form and they’ve benefited from plentiful game time and the trust given to young players in Holland does make a huge difference.
Idrissi is a bit older at 23 but has recently broke into the Morocco team. The chemistry, the fluidity of movement and the selflessness of the trio is a standout feature and they’ll give any defence a torrid time.
In midfield they have Dani De Wit and Teun Koopmeiners who are both destined for bigger things in the future. Koopmeiners was made captain this year at just 21 years-old which goes to show how much faith the club have in his leadership abilities. He may have to fill in at centre half here though due to defensive injuries plaguing the Dutch side with experienced centre back Ron Vlaar, Stijn Wuytens and Pantelis Hatzidiakos all ruled out.
This could see Jordy Clasie play holding midfield with De Wit and manager Arne Slot could bring in Japanese youngster Yukinari Sugawara in and play a 4-2-3-1, alternatively he could stick with his favoured 4-3-3 and play Stengs in a deeper, more central role.
With these injuries at the back it is understandable to see AZ chalked up at comfortably odds-against quotes but I’m more than inclined to get involved with the 87/100 on Over 2.5 Goals with Marathon.
LASK were one of the biggest surprise packages of the group stages, qualifying from a group of Sporting Lisbon, Rosenborg and PSV and they were fully deserving of topping the quartet with an impressive W4-D1,-L1 record. Die Laskler racked up a seriously impressive Expected Goals (xG) for total of 13.60 – that’s 2.27 xG per-game on average – only Sevilla, Arsenal and their opponents here, AZ, could beat that figure.
It’s a brave attitude for such a small club on the European scene and it’s a hugely commendable job that now Wolfsburg manager, Oliver Glasner, has done in the past few years and credit too has to go to his successor Valerin Ismael for continuing that great work. They’ve been given respect by the bookmakers and rightly so, they pose a great attacking threat and will fancy their chances of breaking past a makeshift AZ backline.
LASK games averaged 3.40 xG per-game in the group stages whilst AZ games averaged 3.70 xG so I’m surprised we can get such a price on overs here.