Europa League | Last 16 First Leg Prediction & Betting Tips


THE always-excellent James Cantrill (@JimmyThePunt) shares his favourite fancies from Thursday's Europa League card as the knockout rounds continue with the first leg last-16 ties.

Sevilla vs West Ham | Thursday 10th March 2022, 17:45 | BT Sport

 A quick Google search suggests Sevilla is “a city full of life and possibilities”, fitting as this Mediterranean metropolis provides the backdrop for one of the most important fixtures in West Ham’s recent history.

It also crowns a pivotal eight days for the Hammers, in which they have struggled to convince. Lack of rotation showed intent in the FA Cup but defeat depicts the toll this congested campaign is having on a thin Hammers squad.

David Moyes’ men have already played 40 games, and are struggling to maintain pressure on any front.

Domestically, that elusive fourth spot is slipping through their fingers. WHU may be sandwiched in between Arsenal and Tottenham, but the North London clubs have a considerable amount of games in hand, and- in contrast to West Ham- both appear to be gaining momentum.

With the Hammers out of both domestic cup competitions, it looks like the bell has rung at Last Chance Saloon when it comes to their pursuit of silverware for this season. The bar is pretty busy though, and standing in between them and the sweet nectar of European success is Sevilla, one of the competition's most formidable forces.

Los Nervionenses have won the competition six times, four of which coming since 2014.

Julen Lopetegui’s side currently sit second in La Liga- seven points clear of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid- and the success of their season has been built on a solid defence.

No side in the Spanish top flight has shipped fewer goals than them (18). Their possession average (3rd best in the league) and opponents shot on target percentage of 26.8% (lowest in the league) illustrates how they control games with possession and restrict opposition chances.

The hosts have only lost one game at home this season, so taking them with a -0.25 handicap on the asian line in a game that promises to be low margin seems the most logical thing to do. This angle has clicked in 70% of their matches at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium and I fancy them to edge a depleted Hammers side.

Swiss whistleblower Sandro Schärer will be overseeing this clash, an intriguing appointment. Officiating in his home land, he has brandished 20Y and 1R cards in his last two games! In this competition, he has dealt an average of 4.4 over the course of his career but it is 12 in two Europa League appearances this season.

His recent card flouring antics- combined with the magnitude of the game- suggests the player card market may be worth delving into and Joan Jordán price with Bet365 certainly takes appeal.

Bet365 has him posted at 7/2, yet the same angle is a measly 4/11 with Betvictor.

Jordán was struck on the head by a pole hurled from the crowd in the Copa del Rey tie against Real Betis in January. I can only assume he has been wielding that pole in his appearances ever since to justify Betvictor’s price.

Nevertheless, a domestic cards per 90 average of 0.25 and a ten card return from 19 starts in international club cup competitions suggest that 7/2 is a touch too large.

Barcelona vs Galatasaray | Thursday 10th March 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport

Xavi took the reins at the Camp Nou at the beginning of November. Under his tutelage, Barca have played 22 games with both teams to score clicking in 73%. So, at the chunky 7/5 available here, I think this is an angle with a look here.

Barcelona have only kept; one clean sheet in their last seven, two in their last 12 and three in their last 19 games in all competitions. Over that 19 game period, only Mallorca, Deportivo Alaves and Athletic Bilbao failed to score.

In this competition, their two-legged clash with Napoli yielded eight goals with BTTS landing in both.

Atalanta vs Bayer Leverkusen | Thursday 10th March 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport

Time to recycle an old favourite. I have plumped Bayer Leverkusen’s wunderkind to be amongst the goals a few times in Bayer Leverkusen’s Europa League campaign this season, and could not resist doing so once more available at the chunkiest price to date, 4/1 with SBK.

The young midfielder has been dubbed a generational talent and since announcing himself to the world by whipping one past Manuel Neuer on his debut he has gone from strength to strength.

This campaign though, he has been a cut above. With ften goals and 13 assists he has directly contributed to 23 goals in 28 Bundesliga and UEL appearances. Staggeringly, that itranslate to a goals and assists per 90 average of 1.20, so, I expect him to be amongst the goals in some capacity in Italy.

Leicester vs Rennes | Thursday 10th March 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport

On the hunt for more value, I also think it is worth dropping into the scourge of international club football, the Europa Conference League, where Leicester host French side Rennes.

A feature of the Foxes dreadful campaign has been their woeful defending from set pieces. In the English top flight, no side has conceded more goals from them than Leicester's 13.

Craig Dawson, Joe Worrell, Eric Konsa, Jan Bednarek and Aymeric Laporte are just a handful of meat-headed central defenders to prosper from this gaping chink in the Brenden Rodgers’s side defense. I fancy this trend to continue on Thursday, which is why I think Les Rouges et Noirs centre backs are worth a punt in the goalscorer market.

With two domestic goals and a shot per game average of 0.8, Nayef Aguerd looks like the most likely candidate to get on the scoresheet at the King Power. He boasts a goals per 90 average of 0.10, which makes the Moroccan defender's price of 11/1 with Bet365 does represent marginal value as it is. That is without the knowledge that his side actually rank first for SP goals (11) and SP xG (11.1) in Ligue One.

I would also advise that you cover Rennes other CB, Warmed Omari, and that is despite the fact that the French youngster only has one career goal to his name.

Best Bets

Sevilla vs West Ham – Sevilla -0.25 Asian Handicap (4/5 10Bet)

Sevilla vs West Ham – Joan Jordán to be carded (7/2 Bet365)

Barcelona vs Galatasaray – Both Teams To Score (7/5 Mansion)

Atalanta vs Bayer Leverkusen – Florian Wirtz Anytime (4/1 SBK)

Leicester vs Rennes – Nayef Aguerd Anytime (11/1 Bet365)

Leicester vs Rennes – Warmed Omari Anytime (20/1 Betfair)

About Author

My first bet, like most, was on the Grand National. However, I really got into betting when my dad used to go and get me and my brother the slips before home games on a Saturday. At the beginning we’d all pick one away team in a £3 three-fold but soon my brother and I were gathering all our shrapnel and creating the most ambitious accas you could imagine. Unbelievable, I won a 30/1 BTTS acca once. I remember when Birmingham pulled one back to win me the bet in the last seconds of the game, I must of been hooked from then on...

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