Europa League: Shakhtar may fall short in the Wolves’ den


THE Europa League knockout stage continues on Thursday. Tom Love (@TomLove_18) runs the rule over the best betting options from the first leg Last 16 fixtures.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Basel | Thursday 12th March 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport

Last seasons semi-finalists Frankfurt have done ever so well again this season to progress to the DFB pokal final, as well as this stage of the Europa League whilst also balancing league commitments. It’s especially impressive given the fact they lost key front three Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic in the summer.

That being said the likes of Filip Kostic, Adrien Silva and Goncalo Pacienca have stepped up as have players all over the pitch helping the burden of goalscoring. Towering centre half Martin Hinterigger is the second top scorer believe it or not! He’s a bulbous 13/2 to score anytime here by the way.

Head honcho Adi Hutter was an inspired choice to replace Niko Kovac, he did great things with Young Boys of Bern in the Swiss Super League and comes from good coaching stock at RB Salzburg. His high energy game suits this side to a tee but that along with the busy schedule could catch up with them nearer the end of the campaign, Hutter will be pleased that German teams get a winter break to re-energise.

They prove to be quite a force at their Commerzbank arena home and the Austrian gaffer has spoke about his delight that this will not be played behind closed doors. Hutter said in his pre-match press conference “We can expect tomorrow’s game to be the last one in front of spectators for a while, so we’ll obviously enjoy the match with the backing of our fans”.

The fact this could be the last time they play in front of their fans for a while should give them a boost in terms of willingness to win.

The Eagles have won five of their last six on home soil and I think they have one of the weaker teams left in the competition in FC Basel. Hutter will know all about this team having had a few title battles with the Rot-Blau during his time in Switzerland and he will also know that they’ve been extremely disappointing this season in the Super League.

They’re used to winning the league most years but they currently sit in third place and are not the force they used to be. I’d also argue that they’ve had quite an easy run in to this stage compared to most. Their group stage included Getafe, Trabzonspor and Krasnodar and suffice to say there were much tougher groups in the competition. They then got Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia in the Last 32, again an eminently beatable outfit.

The difference in quality between the Bundesliga and the Swiss league is stark and I expect that to show here. The hosts are in form when playing in Hesse and I fancy them to win here but they’re a touch too short to put up outright at best price 4/6 but we can boost that to 19/20 by chucking in Over 1.5 Goals (Coral).

All of the Eagles’ home wins this season have seen two or more goals whilst Basel have lost four of their last six on the road.

Istanbul Basaksehir v Copenhagen | Thursday 12th March 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport

Another game which you maybe wouldn’t expect to see at this stage of the competition takes place in Turkey as the relative new boys Istanbul Basaksehir host Celtic conquerors FC Copenhagen of Denmark on Thursday night and it’s a rare sell out for probably the biggest game of their 30 year history.

They’re rated by the bookmakers as odds-on shots to win this first leg and I’m not sure that makes too much appeal, there’s not much between the teams in terms of quality and that’s reflected in the ‘to qualify’ market with a cigarette paper between the pair, with slight favouritism to the Turks.

This isn’t a game that stands out especially in the goals market, nor the 1X2, but I do fancy one of my favourite Request-A-Bets in this one and that’s for 1+ Corners each team in each half and 10+ Booking Points each team, which is well priced at 10/11 with SkyBet.

I’ve backed this bet a few times in Istanbul BB games and it’s come out as a winner. Both seem decent enough for a corner and the threshold is quite low here with just one needed for both teams in both halves. I do fancy a few cards too.

The home side are averaging 2.4 cards per-game in the Europa League whilst the Danes are averaging two per-game. It’s a huge game for both and as the stakes rise so do the propensity for cards.

Wolfsburg v Shakhtar Donetsk | Thursday 12th March 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport

Another one of the successful German teams in Europe are in action against Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk in which promises to be one of the more intriguing clashes of the Last 16. Wolfsburg are another forward thinking team who appointed Oliver Glasner as manager in the summer after working wonders at LASK Linz.

Many wouldn’t of heard of him but you see these clever recruitment drives for promising up and coming managers in Germany, mainly because they adopt a sporting director methodology and theirs structure, strategy and identity in everything they do. English clubs could learn a thing or two from them.

The Volkswagen-backed club have comfortably negotiated their group and then disposed of Malmo in the last leg. They’ll be keen to take something into the second leg and I’d back them to do so.

Although Shakhtar do pose a threat going forward with the likes of Marlos, Moraes and Taison but they are gettable at the back from what I’ve seen of them this season. They’ve conceded in six of their last seven and I’m sure they’ll be happy with a point here but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they got on the scoresheet.

The 5/4 on the hosts looks about fair but I would like to get the draw onside. With that in mind I’ll take the slightly safer option of doubling up Wolfsburg Double Chance and Over 1.5 Goals at 3/4 with Ladbrokes using their BuildYourBet feature.

Best Bets

Eintracht Frankfurt v Basel – Eintracht Frankfurt to win and Over 1.5 Goals (19/20 Coral)

Istanbul Basaksehir v FC Copenhagen – 1+ Corners each team in each half and 10+ Booking Points each team (10/11 SkyBet)

Wolfsburg v Shakhtar Donetsk – Wolfsburg Double Chance and Over 1.5 Goals (3/4 Ladbrokes)

About Author

I was first interested in the betting industry by doing the odd coupon at 18 - when I’d see a team at odds I didn’t expect it sparked my curiosity as to why that was. I’d go and research everything around that club: form, team news, manager quotes, and try give my own price in an aim to out-do the bookies. I personally enjoy punting on the Football League and European competitions. I like to diversify what markets I bet on so sometimes it’s outrights, goals, player cards etc. The Football League angle comes from being an avid Bradford City fan which has its ups (reaching a League Cup final and beating Chelsea in the FA Cup) and its downs (The entirety of 2018). Hobbies of mine include playing football, cross country running, travelling and playing Football Manager.

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