West Ham vs Rapid Wein | Thursday 30th September 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
West Ham got their European campaign off to the perfect start as they brushed aside Dinamo Zagreb with relative ease, now they will hope to make it two wins from two as they welcome Austrian outfit Rapid Vienna to the London Stadium.
Last season's remarkable campaign, a sixth place finish, earned the Hammers a spot in Europa League and given the strength of the XI David Moyes fielded on matchday one, he is not taking this cup competitions on the continent lightly.
Premier League stalwarts Michial Antonio and Declan Rice were amongst the goals in Croatia and both will likely feature here. However, given the weaker opposition and hectic schedule on the horizon, Moyes will have to manage his resources which will mean we see rotation. Nevertheless, the hosts should have enough to secure the lion's share of the points here.
Rapid Vienna have made an atrocious start to their domestic campaign. After nine matches they sit second from bottom having won just two games and have shipped five goals without response in their last two domestic fixtures. Therefore, I do not expect the Austrian outfit to lay a glove on the hosts.
At a shade over even money with BetVictor, West Ham to win to nil looks a nice way in here.
Given the refereeing appointment, I also think player cards are a play here. Tobias Stieler has the whistle and he has averaged 4.75 cards per game in this competition throughout his career.
The first player that appeals is Filip Stojkovic at 3/1 with Bet365. Domestically, the defender averages 0.23 cards per 90 minutes but on the continent he averages 0.37 cards per 90. It is also worth noting that he will have to contain the likes of Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals if they start.
Line-ups permitting, I also think it might be worth combining Stojkovic and Mark Noble to be carded at 20/1 with Bet365.
Mr West Ham is well into the twilight of his career now but in the five seasons where the sun dwindled over the horizon, from 2015 to 2020, Noble made 160 top flight appearances and picked 35Y and 2R cards over that period. That was a card per 90 average of 0.26 and by that logic I made a price anywhere around the 7/2 mark value this evening. In his only start so far this season- vs Man Utd in the Cup- he was the only player to be carded on the pitch!
Legia Warszawa vs Leicester | Thursday 30th September 2021, 17:45 | BT Sport
The Foxes have made a topsy turvy start to the 21/22 season. Domestically, they have just two, drawn once and lost three scoring seven goals in the process and conceding ten!
Like last season, they remain dominant in terms of possession, averaging 55%, and create plenty of chances, however, poor finishes and defensive mistakes have creeped into their repertoire this campaign which is why over 2.5 is worth a play here.
Their opening fixture against Napoli is the perfect example as the Foxes were two goals to the good with 25 minutes to go, however, things ended all square. Çaglar Söyüncü was particularly woeful that evening but perhaps the most costly occurrence that evening was the sending off of their hatchet man Wilfred Ndidi who will be suspended for this game.
Statistically speaking, in the absence of Ndidi, Youri Tielemans is more prone to cards. The Belgian maestro’s 353 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.
Sparta Prague vs Rangers | Thursday 30th September 2021, 17:45 | BT Sport
Rangers head to Prague in their second UEL game of the campaign and I do not expect a thriller so opposing goals in my proposal here.
Under Steven Gerrard's tutelage, the Gers have been particularly pragmatic, especially when visiting the continent. So far this campaign, all three of their UEL games have seen under 2.5 goals land which includes their trip to Lyon where they limited a side that had averaged three goals a game to an xG of 0.80. It is also worth noting that this bet also landed when these sides met in the Round of 16 in this competition last season.
After defeat in their opening game, Gerrard will be keen to get something Czech Republic to get his side's European campaign up and running.
Celtic vs Bayer Leverkusen | Thursday 30th September 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
As was the case with Rangers, Celtic’s UEL campaign also got off to a losing start, however, in stark contrast to their rivals, it was a seven goals thriller.
For that 4-3 defeat to Real Betis, I suggested in my preview that the absence of Furuhashi would leave too much of a creative void for Celtic and Los Verdiblancos’s busy schedule leading up to the game would mean the game “would be a low scoring affair”. I could not have been more wrong.
After shipping four goals in Spain, their defensive shortcomings have been exposed domestically as they have lost both games since. However, the fixture pits two exciting, attacking sides against once enough and expect a packed Celtic Park to whip this game into a bit of a frenzy.
With the goals expected to flow here it makes sense to plump a price from the goalscorer markets and a player that appeals is Florian Wirtz at 3/1 with Bet365.
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 five goals and four assists he has directly contributed to nine goals in six appearances, staggeringly, that is a goals and assists per 90 average of 1.80 in all competitions!
Whilst backing him anytime is the main play here, I would not want to put anyone off the brace (22/1) or a goal and card double (35/1) with Bet365.
West Ham vs Rapid Wein – West Ham to Win to Nil (1/1 BetVictor)
West Ham vs Rapid Wein – Filip Stojkovic to be carded (3/1 Bet365)
West Ham vs Rapid Wein – Mark Noble and Filip Stojkovic to be carded (20/1 Bet365 1)
Legia Warszawa vs Leicester – Over 2.5 Goals (10/11 Bet365)
Legia Warszawa vs Leicester – Youri Tielemans to be carded (9/2 Bet365)
Sparta Prague vs Rangers – Under 2.5 Goals (10/11 SBK)
Celtic vs Bayer Leverkusen – Over 2.5 Goals (20/29 MansionBet)
Celtic vs Bayer Leverkusen – Florian Wirtz Anytime Goalscorer (3/1 Bet365)