Hapoel Beer Sheva vs Slavia Prague | Thursday 22nd October 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
Hapoel Beer Sheva and Slavia Prague meet for the first time in their respective histories in Group C of this season’s Europa League. The pair are fitting in the group alongside Bayer Leverkusen and Nice, so realistically you would assume that there will be a pretty intense battle for the second qualification place.
Three points therefore will be particularly important for both teams for different reasons. Hapoel Beer Sheva simply must make the most of home advantage when coming up against all of the other three teams.
It is likely to take a big effort for them to get anything away from home, and you’d suspect that could be their shortcoming after all six group encounters. The Israeli club are back in the group stage for the first time since 2017/18, where they lost five of their six matches.
Of their four qualification games to reach this stage this season, three of those were at home and all victories came without conceding, including at the play-off stage when impressively knocking out Viktoria Plzen. They have actually been regularly in the competition for a few years now, but ultimately they’ve always fallen short. The bookies have Slavia Prague as odds-on to win here, which is no value at all, but it reflects the task at hand for the home team.
Slavia Prague have won the Czech top flight in each of the last four seasons, and are very much intent on making it a fifth in succession. They’re six games into the new campaign and already have five wins to their name, so they’re certainly in decent nick.
They did however comprehensively lost out for FC Midtjylland over two legs to qualify for the Champions League, so they have to settle for Europe’s second-tier competition, although they did reach the quarter-finals in 2018/19, only to be knocked out by Chelsea.
Whilst their season has started, they actually haven’t played since October 4th, and their domestic league won’t resume action until the first week of November. They should at least be fresh for this game, and the same will apply to their opponents as Hapoel Beer Sheva haven’t played any football since October 1st when knocking out Plzen in the play-offs of this very competition. Both teams therefore will just be glad to be back on the pitch.
Even those this is matchday one, there is still a feeling that both teams really need a result from this. Falling behind means having to chase, and doing so in a competitive group means they’re unlikely to catch up. I therefore foresee a scenario where both of these teams have a go.
I don’t see any real reason for the home team to play a defensive game. Sure, they’re facing a good opponent, but if there is a time to catch Slavia cold then it is away from home. They’re failed to keep a clean sheet in eight of their last 12 competitive encounters on the road.
Hapoel Beer Sheva actually rarely concede when playing at home. They’ve enjoyed six clean sheets in their previous eight here in all competitions. We of course do have to factor in the sort of opposition they’ve been facing. They’re used to taking the game to opponents at home, so I just don’t picture then suddenly changing and sitting back. It ultimately wouldn’t lead to them producing anything like their best.
I think the 1/1 (RedZone) on offer for Both Teams To Score would represent a decent little wager.
PAOK vs Omonia | Thursday 22nd October 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
Whilst the game above focused on two teams that haven’t played a game for over two weeks, this clash between PAOK and Omonia presents two teams that both had matches this past weekend.
PAOK came from behind to draw away at rivals AEK, whilst Omonia edged out Achnas 2-1 on the road. The pair meet for the first time since the mid 1970’s, and they’ve been placed in Group E alongside PSV Eindhoven and Granada.
PAOK are of course most than used to being situated in the top few places in the Greek Super League, and last season’s fourth place finish was actually their joint-worst position since 2006/07.
Five games into the new season and whilst they’re unbeaten, that actually includes three draws. Three clean sheets are included however, so they certainly remain more than hard to beat. They’ve done so whilst having to cope with the loss of striker Chuba Akpom, who made the move to Championship side Middlesbrough.
The Greek side had high hopes of competing in this season’s UEFA Champions League, and after defeating Besiktas and Benfica in their first two qualification games that it is understandable why. However, they were disappointingly knocked out by Russian side Krasnodar over two legs, and they’ll be hoping to improve upon their played six lost six record from their 2018/19 stint in the UEL.
Cypriot outside Omonia also started this season hoping to reach the UCL group stage and they negotiated ties with Ararat-Armenia, Legia Warsaw and Red Star Belgrade to give them a shot. They would face a Greek club at the play-off stage but found a resilient Olympiakos too tough to defeat, and went down 2-0 over two legs.
The previous season was not completed due to the pandemic, but was tied top of the table on points and as such were awarded a shot at European football due to a better head-to-head record with Anorthosis, who were joint-first. This will be their first ever European group stage venture, so this is very much new territory for the club. They enter the group very much expected to finish fourth out of four, but they’ll enjoy the underdog tag.
Six games into their domestic season and they sit top of the table, boasting an unbeaten record. With respect, the Cypriot league isn’t a hot bed of football but the fact they’ve reached this point means they deserve complete respect. PAOK are no big hitters either so they can’t take things for granted.
The Greek side are around 8/11 to win here, and to be honest I thought they’d be a little shorter than that. I certainly can’t be tipped up at odds-on shot though, so I’ve located a much more appealing bet at a better price.
That comes in the form of PAOK to Win ‘to nil’, which is priced at 9/5 (VBet).They’re certainly better than they showed the last time they were in this competition and it is for that reason why I don’t see them taking Omonia lightly. Unfortunately for the Cypriot outfit I can see them being firmly last place in this group and will struggle for goals, let alone points.
Hapoel Beer Sheva vs Slavia Prague – Both Teams To Score (1/1 RedZone)
PAOL vs Omonia – PAOK to Win ‘to nil’ (9/5 VBet)