Europa League Play-Offs | First Leg Prediction & Betting Tips


THE always-excellent  James Cantrill (@JimmyThePunt) shares his favourite fancies from Thursday's Europa League card as the knockout rounds get underway with the first leg play-offs.

Barcelona vs Napoli | Thursday 17th February 2022, 17:45 | BT Sport

Romanian whistleblower István Kovács takes charge at the Camp Nou and given that he has averaged over 4.18 cards per game in the 16 Europa League games he has taken charge of, bookings could be of interest here. He is yet to take charge of a UEL match this season, but his most recent club game on the European stage saw eleven yellows and a p[enalty awarded.

The first price of interest is Gavi’s at 57/17 with 10Bet, though I would take the 10/3 available with Sky Bet and William Hill and the 3/1 with Bet365.

Gavi tops his clubs charts for cards this campaign, picking up seven yellows and a red, and this should come as no surprise given the cynical nature in which he conducts himself averaging 1.8 fouls per game.

At just 17-years-old, there is not much to go off, but based on the fact that he has racked up ten cards in just 27 senior matches- that is 20.1 90 minutes-  the prices available for him to get his name taken by Kovács are two large.

André-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s price of 3/1 for a card with William Hill also looks a touch too big. With four cards in 1,194 minutes of Italian top flight action this campaign, he has a cards per 90 average of 0.30 which directly translates to a decimal price of 3.33.

The Cameroonian international has just returned from the African Cup of Nations, where he picked up two cards during his side's run to the Semi-finals, taking his total for seven for the campaign. He could be in for a long night at the Camp Nou as he polices the likes of Gavi, Aubameyang and Traore, which is why I fancy him to become well acquainted with Kovács.

Given the magnitude of the fixture and the referee, I think it is also worth combining the two at 16s with William Hill, the same double is six points shorter with 365.

Dortmund vs Rangers | Thursday 17th February 2022, 17:45 | BT Sport

Despite the absence of one of the most promising strikers in the world, I still fancy a goal laden game at the Westfalenstadion as Borussia Dortmund welcome Rangers.

A disappointing Champions League campaign has seen Die Schwarzgelben drop into this competition for the first time since the 2017-18 season, during which they failed to get past RB Salzburg and exited the competition in the round of 16.

Two heavy defeats to Ajax and a 3-1 loss at the José Alvalade Stadium in the premier European competition proved costly and with the hosts just six points behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, this clash with Rangers may not be a priority giving the Scottish side a chance.

Only one of BVB’s six UCL games saw unders click, as their games averaged 3.5 goals. Goals have been rife at both ends all season long as both teams have scored in 72% of their 32 fixtures in all competitions, 13 of their last 16!

The Gers are also usually pretty obliging on the goals front. Domestically, only Celtic (57) have scored more goals than Rangers’ 55 this campaign. After a poruss start to the season they have appeared to tighten up defensively keeping three clean sheets in their last three games, however, I do not think they will be able to thwart the German giants on Thursday.

FC Porto vs Lazio | Thursday 17th February 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport 

I do not think you can look past Mehdi Taremi to score anytime as Porto welcomes Lazio on Thursday evening at 20:00.

With Luis Diaz transferred to Liverpool, Taremi is the Dragons top goalscorer with 13 goals, no player has a higher shots per game average (2.9) then him either. In a career spanning just over 130 games in Portugal and Iran, he has found the net 71 times, giving him a goals per 90 average of 0.66!

He has scored seven goals in his last eight games for club and country and with the away goal rule abolished, Porto will be looking for some advantage to take to the Stadio Olimpico.

RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad | Thursday 17th February 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport

RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku has been absolutely outrageous this season. The Frenchman has scored 19 times so far and assisted ten goals giving him a G+A per 90 average of 1.20. Staggeringly, this means that he has almost had a direct hand in a goal per game in every single one of his 31 appearances.

He has scored two in his last two and four in his last six and boasts a healthy shots per game average of 2.5. If RBL score, there is no doubt that Nkunku will have played a hand in it.

He has the pedigree in Europe as well, he scored twice vs Club Brugge and thrice away at the Etihad which is why I think it is worth having a nibble on him to score two or more goals here.

Best Bets

Barcelona vs Napoli – Gavi to be carded (57/17 10Bet)

Barcelona vs Napoli – Zambo Anguissa to be carded (3/1 William Hill)

Barcelona vs Napoli – Gavi and Zambo Anguissa to be carded (16/1 William Hill)

Dortmund vs Rangers – Both Teams To Score (13/5 SBK)

FC Porto vs Lazio – Mehdi Taremi Anytime Goalscorer (31/20 Unibet)

RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad – Christopher Nkunku Anytime Goalscorer (39/19 SBK)

RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad – Christopher Nkunku to score a brace (11/1 Betfair)

About Author

My first bet, like most, was on the Grand National. However, I really got into betting when my dad used to go and get me and my brother the slips before home games on a Saturday. At the beginning we’d all pick one away team in a £3 three-fold but soon my brother and I were gathering all our shrapnel and creating the most ambitious accas you could imagine. Unbelievable, I won a 30/1 BTTS acca once. I remember when Birmingham pulled one back to win me the bet in the last seconds of the game, I must of been hooked from then on...

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