Europa League – Mighty minnows capable of making a splash


BANG in-form world football fanatic James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at the best betting opportunities from Thursday's Europa League coupon in games not involving British clubs.

Dudelange v Olympiakos | Thursday 25th October, 17:55 | BT Sport

Luxembourg football is very much on the up at present. It could be argued it couldn’t have got any worse, but the national team have started to rack up a few impressive victories of late to give them a few headlines. Domestically, Dudelange have started to make strides of their own and made eye-catching progress into this season’s Europa League.

Dudelange were unfortunate to be knocked out in the Champions League equivalent when going down 3-2 on aggregate to Hungarian champions MOL Vida. They convinced when knocking out FC Drita, Legia Warsaw and CFR Cluj to reach this group and pit their wits against the likes of Olympiakos, AC Milan and Real Betis.

The minnows gave AC Milan a great game at the Stade Josy Barthel, where they are playing their European contests this season. It took a Gonzalo Higuain effort to separate the two sides on the hour mark. They were soundly beaten in Betis, but they’ll target maximum points when the Greeks come to town.

Dudelange are used to winning games after winning the top-flight in Luxembourg for four seasons running, and are not easily beaten these days.

Olympiakos are certainly not pulling up any trees in the Greek Super League at present, a division which they have historically dominated.

The 44-time top flight victors currently sit fifth in the division and are winless in their previous four in all competition. This included an away defeat to Milan earlier in the group stage, but a weekend away loss to OFI Crete, who were winless prior to that, means Pedro Martins doesn’t have his squad in the best place at present.

Martins has been in the job since April, but given how often the club goes through managers, he’ll know results need to improve right away. They will be expected to return from Luxembourg with all three points and a convincing performance. The issue is that they have been anything but convincing in recent times.

A win for Dudelange, would fire them right back into contention to potentially pull off the impossible and get out of this group. They would then fancy their chances of coming away from Greece with maximum points when they meet again on matchday four.

Olympiakos are incredibly vulnerable at this moment in time, so odds-on quotes of them to win this game simply have to be ignore. Of course, they could click and dismantle their opponents, but we couldn’t possible suggest ‘lumping on’. There is also the approximately 1,700 mile journey for Olympiakos to take into account as well, which will only make matters tough for them.

We only need to ask Milan about their recent trip to Luxembourg – it was far from easy and the Italians were made to work very hard for their 1-0 victory over a month ago.

Olympiakos are not necessarily good travellers themselves. Specifically in this competition it is nothing to write home about either. In fairly recent memory they travelled to the likes of Dnipro, APOEL and Astana and not returned home with maximum points.

The Greeks actually did lead for a long time in Milan before a late flurry of goals went against them, but a night in the San Siro is much more appealing than the Stade Josy Barthel will be.

Dudelange have already beaten respectable opposition to reach this point and they’ll sense the chance to cause a bit of an upset here. All of the pressure is on Olympiakos here and it is only reputation why they are odds-on here.

Dudelange Double Chance pays 29/20 (Marathon) and has to be worth an interest. Even the 51/10 on a Dudelange victory cannot be completely ignore, but just to be safe, we’ll stick with the Double Chance knowing Olympiakos’ struggles of late.

Qarabag v Vorskla | Thursday 25th October 2018, 17:55 | BT Sport

Group E is already starting to have quite a familiar look to it.

Both Qarabag and Vorskla have defeats versus in-form Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon to their names. Before a ball was kicked in the group it looked as if these two sides were going to come up short, and two games in that appears to be the case.

However, both will see these back-to-back matches versus one another as a chance to get some points on the board and hope to begin applying some pressure over the two bigger clubs.

Qarabag can now classify themselves as regular participants in European competition in recent times. For five seasons running they have won the Azerbaijan Premier League, earning them route into the qualification rounds of the Champions League.

Last season Qarabag made it into the group stages of the elite competition, and managed two creditable draws with Atletico Madrid, but ultimately finished bottom of a tough-looking group. Seven games into their domestic campaign they remain unbeaten and joint-top of the table with Neftci Baku.

QRB however are determined to make their mark in this season’s Europa League and see their Ukrainian opponents as a side they can defeat.

Vorskla have also suffered defeats to Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon in their opening two group games, although they did manage to net twice at the Emirates to give a minor scare to Unai Emery’s men.

Last season, they finished a superb third in the Ukrainian Premier League behind the big two in Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv, earning them progression into the Europa League group stages. They also reached this stage in the 2011/12 version, finishing bottom of the group including Hannover 96, Standard Liege and Copenhagen.

Whilst Vorskla sit a respectable fourth in the Ukrainian top-flight 12 games into the new season, six wins and six defeats is not exactly blistering form. In fact, they’ve suffered back-to-back home defeats, including to rock bottom Arsenal Kyiv.

A trip to Azerbaijan is arguably the last thing they want to be doing right now. The journey itself is roughly 1,200 miles.

It is perhaps not so wise to take league form so literally when focusing on this game. Qarabag are of course going to be winning lots of games given they are the dominant side in their respective league.

Vorskla are certainly competitive from their perspective, and perhaps don’t feel as much pressure as their opponents to succeed at this level, given third-place is their best ever finish in domestic competition at the highest level.

It would be fair to say that Qarabag will feel the greater need to win this game considering they are the home side. They don’t tend to travel too well in Europe and instead reserve their stronger displays in front of their own supporters.

Qarabag defeated a solid Sheriff Tiraspol side 3-0 in qualification for this competition. We mentioned the draw with Atletico last season and they had to get the best out of Roma, who eventually prevailed 2-1. Club Brugge, Salzburg, Young Boys, Anderlecht, PAOK and Copenhagen are other sides they have defeated in fairly recent memory, further proving how tough these conditions are for the away side.

It is likely that Vorskla will come and initially look to be hard to break down. As mentioned, slightly more pressure is on Qarabag, but ultimately Zeleno-Bili will have to show something going forward themselves. They need the win too.

Vorskla didn’t win away the last time they ventured into the European group stages, and we’ll serve them causing a slight surprise here. Based on history, we believe Qarabag are the side to be with here.

Of course both have lost both games, and in fact Qarabag are yet to score in either of those. Vorskla represent the kind of opposition they’ll expect to win, and the conditions often play into their advantage. Vorskla have failed to score on six occasions away from home this season, whilst February was the last time Qarabag domestically failed to net at home.

It is unlikely to be a thriller, especially as both know a defeat would essentially knock them out. Qarabag to win and Under 3.5 Goals is available at 5/4 (BoyleSports), which is a handy little price all things considered.

Best Bets

Dudelange v Olympiakos – Dudelange double chance (29/20 Marathon)

Qarabag v Vorskla – Qarabag to win and Under 3.5 Goals (5/4 BoyleSports)

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