Lille vs Sparta Prague | Thursday 3rd December 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
My first Europe League selection comes via Group H where Lille welcome Sparta Prague. Unbeaten, Les Dogues currently rule the roost- a point clear of Milan- and have their sites set on confirming qualification for the knockout stages on Thursday. However, Sparta may not be as easy to brush aside as they was in the reverse fixture with European ambitions of their own to keep alive.
The Czech outfit followed defeats to Lille and AC Milan by beating Celtic 4-1 twice meaning that a win in France would see them leapfrog Lille going into the last round of fixtures. A draw would keep dreams of qualification alive but if they were to lose and Milan beat Celtic they are eliminated. For Lille- if Milan beat Celtic- a win here would see them qualify with a game to spare.
At odds of around 11/25, according to the bookies price, Lille's expected chance of victory is 69%. However, they have won 89% of their fixtures when priced at these odds. It is also worth noting that Bet365 have the Asian Goal Line set at 3.00 and priced at 9/10, they also have Lille -125 at on the Asian Handicap at the same price.
These prices elude to two things; the bookies fancy a Lille win and they fancy the game to feature goals!
Thursdays hosts have averaged 2.5 goals per game in the Europa League this season, scoring more than one in three of the four games they have played (4/2/3/1) and in the reverse fixture they put four past Milan Heca. Therefore, with goals in the ascendency at the Stade Pierre Mauroy who better to get on side in the goalscorer market than the competitions top goalscorer Yusuf Yazici?
The exiting young Turk has found the net six times in the competition, scoring a brace of hat-tricks. He has notched up eight goals in his last six starts and has is on penalty duty when he's on the pitch.
Bet365 have him audaciously priced at; 2/1 anytime, 7/1 to score first, 12/1 for a brace and 66/1 for a hat-trick which all appeal. Most places have him around 4/1 to score first and Betway only have him at 28/1 to bag a hat-trick. It's no wonder that Yacizi finds the back of the net so often; he has averaged 3.83 SpG in the six games he's started and hit the target 12 times in total in those starts.
This angle is not faultless though. Yazici is very much on the fringes of Lille's squad; he has made nine appearances from the bench this season and is yet to play the duration of a game. Despite scoring a brace vs Lorient in his second league start and bagging hat-tricks vs Sparta and Milan in the UEL he was hooked on all three occasions on the 80th minute.
In those starts where he has not done outstandingly well, he rarely makes it past the 65th minute mark. Therefore, when he does feature from the off there's an inevitability that Christophe Galtier will pull him at some point. You do have to wonder though if Lille's supremo does dislike him given the lack of game time he gets.
As well as this, last week, Milan clearly had his number marked following his hat-trick at the San Siro. They always had a player- often multiple players- around he when he received the ball and looked to suffocate the half space he thrives in in-between defence and midfield. Milan's tactics kept him relatively quiet, that being said he did go close twice. He was subbed on the 63rd minute so who knows what would of happened he is aloud to play the 90.
All things considered though, I'm happy to take Yazici at these prices.
Red Star Belgrade vs Hoffenheim | Thursday 3rd December 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
Hoffenheim's domestic and European form are polar opposites; in the Bundesliga they have failed to win any of their last seven matches but in the Europa League they have won all four of their games. They have already ensured their place in the knockout stages with two games to spare and a draw in the Serbian capital will mean they top their group.
Last weeks 2-0 victory over Gent meant that Red Star Belgrade moved six points clear of third place in Group L. Like Hoffenheim, a draw will ensure that they progress to the next stage of the competition. Therefore, with a draw suiting both sides, it is my fancy for this fixture and Bet365 have it priced best at 11/4.
Despite the fact that Hoffenheim are expected to rotate, as the competitions top goalscorers they'll still pose warranted worry to Red Star's backline. With both sides want to take care of business tomorrow night – so they can gives their players a bit of rest bite ahead of the next stage – there's a certain inevitably that a draw will be the outcome.
I'm not a fan of correct score predictions my self but if I had to opt for a scoreline here my pick would be 1-1.
AZ Alkmaar vs Napoli | Thursday 3rd December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Group H is poised for a fascinating crescendo as the last round of results ensured that Napoli, AZ and Real Sociedad are all in contention to reach the knock-out stages.
Despite losing to AZ on MD1, the Partenopei currently stand two points clear of them going into the final two group games. This means that Napoli travel to the Netherlands in control of their own fate and a win would see them clinch qualification to the knockout stages. In a northern city renowned for it's traditional cheese market, Gli Azzurri won't want to let tonight's hosts take the cats milk, as the cities favourite son used to say.
Gennaro Gattuso is without his big money import from the French top division Victor Osimhen so will have to opt for Andrea Petagna or Dries Mertens in attack. However, the former is yet to score in the competition this season. Tiemoue Bakayoko looks set to return alongside Demme to anchor Napoli's midfield, having missed out at the weekend due to suspension. Amir Rrahmani is unavailable due to COVID but Elseid Hysaj is back in contention having reportedly tested negative.
A return to Naples with three points will be no easy feat though. Tonight's host are unbeaten at home in Europe, a run stretching back eleven matches, and were touted by many to pip Ajax to the Eredivisie title last campaign before Ajax were awarded the title prematurely.
Arne Slot will be without Jeremy Helmer (injury) and Jody Clasie (COVID). Front man Myron Boadu has returned from a stint on the sidelines in fine fettle and will be hoping for a start here in either an attacking trio or duo.
Given what is at stake, I'm keen to oppose goals in this one. 83.3% of the sides last combine 12 European fixtures have seen fewer than three goals. This season, only AZ game 4-1 victory over Rijeka has seen more than one goal! Napoli's European games have seen an average of 1.75 goals pG, with over 2.5 goals only landing in their away game with Rijeka.
With the underlying statistics outlined above, I was surprised to see Under 2.5 goals priced consistently across most bookies at odds against. Uni Bet/ 888 Sport have it priced slightly longer than everywhere else at 57/50.
The AFAS Stadium has become a fortress in Europe and although both sides are amidst busy fixture schedules, I think Napoli will be the side worse for wear following what was no doubt a sapping victory over Roma.
Despite only a numbered amount of spectators been aloud in, I don't think you can underestimate the home advantage particularly in Europe when long distance travel also has to be factored in. Therefore, I also like the look of AZ +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 41/40 with Bet365. As long as AZ avoid defeat, this bet is a winner.
If you want something a bit chunkier, under Bet365's ‘Bet Builder' you can combine an AZ win with the game to have fewer that three goals at odds of 10/1. The same bet is available with most other bookies at around 8/1 so by making the bet in bet builder you can get a considerably longer price.
Real Sociedad vs Rijeka | Thursday 3rd December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Sticking with Group H, there's an all together different proposition in the groups other game as La Liga leaders Real Sociedad welcome Croatian's Rijeka, who are still on the hunt for their first European point.
Tomorrow's hosts have only tasted defeat twice this season and currently sit in second spot level on level points with AZ. Although Rijeka have proved to be a stubborn proposition when playing at home they have struggled on the road, losing in both of their fixtures in Naples and Alkmaar.
With Sociedad as short as 1/8 to win, I think backing them to win both halves at 11/10 – with William Hill, Betfair and Paddy Power – is a good way of squeezing a bit of value out of the game at the Anoeta Stadium. The bet has already landed in both of Rijeka's away trips in this competition and with the impetus on Sociedad to go out and get a victory I think that they could make it a convincing one.
Domestically, Mikel Oyarzabal tops La Liga's charts for goals, the Spanish winger already has seven goals to his name and is finding the net 0.88 times per 90 minutes. Surprisingly though, he is yet to brake his duck on the European stage this season despite featuring heavily in all four La Real's UEL fixtures. However, I think tomorrows game against the foot of group H provides the perfect opportunity to do so,
Oyarzabal goals have come in his last seven league games, scoring in six and averaging 3.6 shots pG plus he takes penalties. Therefore, I am more than happy to take Betfair and Paddy Powers price of evens for him to score at any point in tomorrows game.
Nice vs Bayer Leverkusen | Thursday 3rd December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Nice come into this game knowing only a win by at least a four goal margin will keep their slim hopes of qualification alive.
However, Patrick Vieira's side have slumped to 11th in Ligue One following four straight defeats. They host a Beyer Leverkusen team that have endured a contrasting start to their campaign; they currently sit third in the Bundesliga – having won five of their six league games- and as long as the German side don't lose by a four or more goal margin, they secure their place in the next stage.
However, they will be heading to France without; Paulinho (injury), Santiago Arias (injury), Sven Bender (injury), Edmond Tapsobem (COVID), Exequiel Palacios (injury) and Charles Aranguiz (injury).
Nice needing to win by such a margin surely means they will have to go relatively gung ho- given that there is very little to lose and a lot to gain- and this makes the game a very interesting betting proposition. When you combine the above with the fact that Leverkusen currently have a bit of an injury crisis, it makes getting behind Nice all the more appealing.
Bet365 have Nice +1 on the Asian Handicap at 37/40. This means that the bet is a winner if Nice win or draw and you get your stake back if they lose by a goal. I wouldn't want to put anyone off the higher priced lines but just given how poor Nice have been in the run up to this game I want to err on the side of caution. I'm also going to have a small play on Nice to win given the circumstances. Bet odds are available with SBK.
Lille vs Sparta Prague – Yusuf Yazici Anytime Goalscorer (2/1 Bet365 1)
Lille vs Sparta Prague – Yusuf Yazici To Score 2 Or More Goals (12/1 Bet365)
Lille vs Sparta Prague – Yusuf Yazici To Score A Hat-Trick (66/1 Bet365)
Red Star Belgrade vs Hoffenheim – Draw (11/4 Bet365 4)
AZ Alkmaar vs Napoli – Under 2.5 Goals (57/50 Unibet)
AZ Alkmaar vs Napoli – AZ Alkmaar +0.5 Asian Handicap (41/40 Bet365)
AZ Alkmaar vs Napoli – AZ Alkmaar to win and Under 3 Goals (10/1 Bet365)
Real Sociedad vs Rijeka – Real Sociedad To Win Both Halves (11/10 William Hill)
Real Sociedad vs Rijeka – Mikel Oyarzabal Anytime Goalscorer (1/1 Betfair)
Nice vs Bayer Leverkusen – Nice +1 Asian Handicap (37/40 Bet365)
Nice vs Bayern Leverkusen – Nice to win (23/5 SBK)