Leicester vs Napoli | Thursday 16th September 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
Leicester vs Napoli, a fixture that can stake a claim to be the fixture of the round in Thursday’s Europa League action. To be honest I struggled to split these sides or find a price in the 1X2, goals or asian markets that I was able to justify with any real conviction so I delved into the player card markets and I found a price I could certainly get behind; Youri Tielemans at 6/1 with Bet365.
The Belgian maestro’s 349 game long career has only mustered 44 yellow cards thus far, a tidy disciplinary record for a central midfielder.
However, it is worth noting that just under a quarter of those have come on European nights despite playing 300 less games. Therefore, with a cards per 90 average of 0.24 I would have taken a price of around 4/1 as sufficient value so Bet365’s certainly suffices especially when you consider that the same bet is as short as 12/5 elsewhere.
Dinamo Zagreb vs West Ham | Thursday 16th September 2021, 17:45 | BT Sport
West Ham commence their European campaign with a trip to Croatia where they face a stern test against a seasoned UEL side; Dinamo Zagreb.
The hosts are European regulars that reached the Quarter-finals last campaign and given that they face a side that has not featured in the competition since 2016, I do not think they have gotten the respect they deserve.
So far this campaign, the Modri have won ten of their opening 15 games, keeping a clean sheet in nine of those victories, and currently top their domestic division. The Hammers, in stark contrast, have been far from convincing. They looked uncharacteristically porus in their curtain raiser at St James’ Park and have drawn to Palace and Southampton in their two most recent games.
The bookmakers have Zagreb posted at around 21/10- a 32% chance of victory- which makes me think they are massively undervalued, especially, given the fact that they have won 67% of their games when priced accordingly. Therefore, I am happy to get them onside with a quarter of a goal headstart on the asian handicap as it gives us the security of a half a stakes winner if the match ends all square.
I also like the look of Zagreb’s Mislav Orsic in the goalscorer market for this fixture. I am sure most avid UEL followers- or Spurs fans- will remember him from last campaign. He was the hero for Dinamo Zagreb as they stunned Spurs in the Round of 16 on the night that they overturned a 2-0 deficit and sent Jose Mourinho’s men packing.
Orsic bagged one of the best hat-tricks this competition has ever seen that evening. At 16/5 with Betfair to score anytime tonight I think he is more than worthy of a punt to bag at the Stadion Maksimir. This is because, in the most simplest of terms, this price represents value as Orsic has a career goals per 90 average of 0.40 and by that logic his price should be around the 6/4 mark.
Despite playing as a left winger for the majority of this season, Dinamo’s number 99 is no stranger to a goal. The Croatian international racked up a combined total of 37 goals and assists last season and has scored twice domestically this campaign despite only featuring for a total of 149 minutes.
Last season vs Spurs, I vividly remember how he utilised his blistering pace to shift onto his favoured right foot which is why I fancy him to wreak havoc vs the Hammers, especially if they rotate. It is worth noting that the treble vs Spurs was not his on the European stage. The season before last he scored three hat-tricks which includes one in the UCL vs Atalanta. Therefore, at 22/1 and 375/1 (with Betfair) I think the higher lines are worth a small punt.
Real Betis vs Celtic | Thursday 16th September 2021, 17:45 | BT Sport
My final selection for Thursday nights Europa League action comes via southern Spain where Real Betis welcome Scottish giants Celtic in what will be the first duel between these sides.
Following a patchy and disappointing start to the campaign, Manuel Pellegrini’s side looked much improved following the international break as they were more than valuable for the three points in their victory over Granada on Monday. Betis won the game 2-1 but finished on an xG 1.69 greater than that of the foe.
Kyogo Furuhashi is a doubt for the visitors having picked up a knock on international duty and it would be a huge blow for the Hoops if the Japanese playmaker could not feature here. Furuhashi is the creative catalyst for his side, so far this season he has; bagged three goals, averaged three shots and 1.3 key passes per game. With Ryan Christie and Odsonne Édouard migrating down south as well, I do wonder where Ange Postecoglou is going to muster some creativity from at the Benito Villamarín Stadium.
Whilst it is worth noting that Celtic inflicted some emphatic victories domestically this campaign (two 6-0’s and a 3-0) against sides of Betis’ pedigree they have struggled. They were denied a spot in the CHampions League by Midtjylland and have recently lost to AZ Alkmaar and Rangers in the Old Firm.
The absence of Furuhashi for Celtic and the fact that Los Verdiblancos played on Monday suggests to me that this will be a low scoring affair. However, I do think the gulf in quality between the two sides is too great to ignore the hosts here which is why I am touting them to win to nil.
Leicester vs Napoli – Youri Tielemans to be carded (6/1 Bet365)
Dinamo Zagreb vs West Ham – Dinamo Zagreb +0.25 Asian Handicap (22/23 BetVictor)
Dinamo Zagreb vs West Ham – Mislav Orsic Anytime Goalscorer (16/5 Betfair)
Dinamo Zagreb vs West Ham – Mislav Orsic to score 2+ goals (22/1 Betfair)
Real Betis vs Celtic – Real Betis to win to nil (19/10 SkyBet)