Real Sociedad v AZ Alkmaar | Thursday 5th November 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
Somewhat surprisingly to some, Group F is currently led by AZ Alkmaar thanks to maximum points from their opening two contests. They backed up their excellent away triumph in Napoli with a convincing 4-1 home success over Rijeka. Another tough trip awaits them on Thursday when they travel to Real Sociedad, who would lost at home to Napoli on MD2.
As we reach the halfway point, we very much enter the stage where teams can really take one step into the next round. AZ are very much in that territory if they can come away from San Sebastián with another three-point haul, although they would certainly take a draw from this, too. That being said, they’re not the sort of outfit to settle for a point, so it could be an all-or-nothing approach from the Dutchman.
Although La Real lost in their last European conquest, they are top of La Liga, mainly thanks to four straight victories. These results were a mixture of 4-1’s and 3-0’s, so they’ve certainly been convincing in their movement to the top of the pile.
AZ started their Eredivisie campaign a little sluggishly, yet they still remain unbeaten. A run of five draws to open their campaign was followed by their maiden league triumph over Waalwijk last time out. It is fair to say both teams are in high spirits.
Being the home team, the emphasis is really on the Spanish side to take the game to the opposition. That is ultimately what has proved to be the ingredient to their early season success. Whilst their last two Europa League clashes produce one goal each, their previous four in league action produced an average of 4.00 goals per game.
As for AZ, we can already chalk of scores in the region of 4-1, 3-0, 2-2, 4-4 and 3-3 to their name. Goals follow these two teams.
I think Real Sociedad are in the territory of really needing a win in this one, and as such they’ll be positive in their outlay and most likely team selection. As AZ aren’t a defensive outfit, I think BTTS is a real call, but I’ll just plump with Real Sociedad Win and Over 2.5 Goals at 11/8 (BoyleSports).
Rapid Vienna v Dundalk | Thursday 5th November 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
Dundalk were very much expecting to be the whipping boys in Group B and whilst they’ve not been disgraced in their opening two clashes, it is still ultimately two defeats to their name. Still, motivation won’t ever really be in doubt for them, even if deep down they know qualification is extremely unlikely.
This is a real European adventure for them and will make every game count. I therefore think this is probably a more important clash for Rapid Vienna, who hold slightly more claims of progression into the next stage.
Rapid would give Arsenal a fright in their opening group clash, but followed that up with an away loss to Molde, which could prove every so costly. They already have six points to make up, and with Arsenal likely to beat Arsenal in the other group contest, Rapid Vienna know they can ill-afford to drop points in this home assignment.
Domestically, both teams are very much back in action and in the swing of things, so factors such as fitness won’t necessarily be a great concern to either coach. Baring their last two UEL fixtures, Rapid can say they’re in excellent form. They’ve defeated the likes of LASK and Wolfsberger, who are also both in this season’s UEL, in league games in recent times.
Dundalk on the other hand have stumbled a little in recent weeks. Whilst they’re third in the Irish Premier Division, they’re a whopping 15-points behind runaway leaders Shamrock Rovers.
Rapid were quite disappointing on their visit to Molde last time out, and they’ll be eager to make more of a statement on this occasion. As mentioned, they gave Arsenal a real good game, so that probably highlights how important home advantage will be to them.
With respect to Dundalk, Rapid will be quite glad to be facing them on Thursday. The Irish outfit have conceded an average of 18 shots on goal in their first two group contests, so the Austrians may look to fill their boots here.
In the Austrian Bundesliga, only Red Bull Salzburg have managed more shots than goal than Rapid Vienna, and they’re the only two clubs to be in the 100+ bracket in that regard. They play a neat and tidy passing game, and I just fear Dundalk could be outrun here and the absolute key for them is to avoid conceding early, or ideally opening the scoring themselves. To do that away from home in Europe is tough at the best of times, so Rapid are certainly the safer call here.
Odds-on a home win are slim, but I will give Dundalk a little bit of credit here as I fancy them to frustrate their opponents to begin with. The hosts should break them down eventually, which is why I can picture a real attack versus defence situation in the second half.
Rapid Vienna Over 1.5 Second Half Goals pays 11/10 (Betway). Even if they’re leading at the break, Dundalk will have to open up anyway and Rapid are ever so dangerous on the break. The Lilywhites also held out until the 42nd-minute before Arsenal’s pressure eventually paid off at the Emirates last week, whilst it took Molde over an hour for them to score a few weeks back.
Milan v Lille | Thursday 5th November 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
There is normally one or two Europa League contests which really catch the eye on a weekly basis and Milan versus Lille looks to firmly fit into that equation on this occasion.
Whilst we have the likes of Benfica v Rangers, PAOK v PSV and Leicester v Braga which will attract plenty, I fancy we have picked out the best game here. Two games in and both clubs very much have qualification out of Group H in their control.
Milan sit at the summit with two wins from two, and convincing wins away at Celtic and at home to Sparta Prague means they’re in confident mood. When we also consider their domestic form too, Stefano Pioli’s side are actually unbeaten since the restart, and they last lost a game of any kind on March 8th at home to Genoa.
To say the Rossoneri are in great form is an understatement, and veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimović is certainly integral to that. The Swede has 11 goals in his previous nine appearances, and it wasn’t so long ago he contracted and recovered from Covid-19.
It won’t necessarily be plain sailing for them when Lille visit the San Siro. The French outfit have made real strides in the early part of this season under Christophe Galtier. The former Saint-Étienne boss has transformed this team into a very attractive ball-playing side, as well as being incredibly tough to break down.
Lille remain unbeaten this season in 11 attempts, but each of their last three have been draws, with the last two at home to Celtic (from 2-0 down) and Lyon (who had ten men since 49th minute) being particularly frustrated. They demonstrated some issues breaking the opposition down in those clashes, and things won’t get any easier versus the Italians.
Considering the attacking talent that is on show here, the natural thought process would be to look towards the goals angle on this occasion. That is with good reason as well. Milan’s last six games in all competitions featured over 2.5 goals, plus they’re at home anyway so there will be a natural desire to want to get forward. They know a win here realistically puts them through, baring a huge collapse in the final three games.
Lille are a team that like to take the game to the opposition as well, and for me that plays into the hands of Milan, the home team. That being said, the French outfit rank as a big danger on the counter attack for example. As mentioned, they have some issues breaking down both Celtic and Lyon in their previous two games. The first goal will be everything in this game, but I don’t necessarily think either team are going to be sitting back once taking the lead.
I can’t really look further away than Over 2.5 Goals here. 5/6 (GentingBet) isn’t a sexy price, but I actually thought it would be a bit shorter than this. I naturally thought it’d be around the 8/15 mark given it is a match which will catch the eye on the card.
Whilst Lille have developed a reputation for conceding few goals, four of their last six contained three goals or more, and they won’t have it all their own way against a side really at it. I’d be tempted to give Milan win and BTTS, or Milan win and O2.5, but I’ll play it a little safer and just stick with goals.
Real Sociedad vs AZ Alkmaar – Real Sociedad Win and Over 2.5 Goals (11/8 BoyleSports)
Rapid Vienna vs Dundalk – Rapid Vienna Over 1.5 Second Half Goals (11/10 Betway)
AC Milan vs Lille – Over 2.5 Goals (5/6 GentingBet)