Genk v Sarpsborg | Thursday 13th December 2018, 17:55 | BT Sport
There are plenty of dead rubber contests in this final round of Europa League group fixtures, but we cannot say that in Group I. All four teams go into Thursday with a chance of making it into the knockout round.
Genk currently lead the way, and the formula for them is pretty clear. A win in this home encounter would be enough to confirm their progression. However, if they lose, they would be knocked out, even despite going into the last match as leaders.
Norwegian outfit Sarpsborg saw their domestic campaign end a few weeks ago, but they have since had the 3-2 home defeat to Besiktas. The fact of the matter is clear for them, in that only three points on the night is enough to allow them to remain in Europe beyond the New Year, and extend their season.
This has been quite a tough group to predict thus far. Only three points separates first to fourth, with their seemingly being no standout or weak line overall. However, the permutations does make this quite an interesting contest and we should be able to make some predictions on that basis.
Genk can draw and go through, but being the home side, they won’t want to be too defensive. No Belgian side is naturally too defensive anyway, a bit like the Dutch, and they may view attack as their best form of defence. That has been their mantra this season domestically too, helping them ease to the top of the Belgian First Division A.
Sarpsborg are relatively similar in the sense that they too love to attack. For all that they are quite leaky at the back, they are normally good for a goal. The slight concern is that they may be a little rusty having ended their season already, but the flip side means they are extra prepared for this contest as well. They must win, so they will have to take some risks eventually.
Although the Belgians are top of their league, they have still conceded an average of exactly one goal per-game. Also, they are very high up in relation to both teams scoring. Quite incredibly, 78% of their home league matches has seen this pay out. Even including away matches, it is as high as 67%.
Now they aren’t going to become too defensive just because a draw would be OK, certainly not from the start. They should be good for a goal, and they may be tempted to sit back at some stage and invite some pressure.
That will suit Sarpsborg to a degree, but they really need the first goal to make this interesting. If they go behind, they will have to take risks earlier than they would ideally like to. However, risk taking seems to be their thing this season. In the Norwegian league, 67% of their away games ended with both teams scoring.
BTTS has paid out in all five of Sarpsborg’s Europa League group clashes so far. The same is said for Genk, with the exception of their 2-0 home win to Malmo. Both Teams To Score is an appealing 19/20 (Bet365) shot.
Marseille v Apollon | Thursday 13th December 2018, 17:55 | BT Sport
Whilst the previous match has plenty riding on it, there is nothing on this contest. The Stade Velodrome has played host to some major European contests over the years, but this is definitely not one of those.
Marseille may have reached the showpiece event in making the final last season, only to be brushed aside by Atletico Madrid, but they’re going out with a whimper this time around.
As for Cypriot outfit Apollon, there were no real expectations of them getting out of this group from the outside. Many would have tipped them to finish a nailed-on fourth out of four in this group, but it looks as though third spot is going to be theirs. That may be some slim consolation for them, but one thing they will look to do is enjoy their night at a big, historic venue such as this.
Both teams can at least enter this without the pressure of needing a result. You may wonder why I am even touching this game given this is possibly a match neither want at this moment, but there are a few angles we can approach this.
Firstly, Marseille are deemed the odds-on favourites for this match. Forgetting their form in the group so far, it could be understood. Marseille did reach the final last season after all. However, they are obviously out and have endured something of a disastrous group stage.
They were knocked out prior to facing Eintracht Frankfurt on matchday five, and Rudi Garcia elected to heavily rotate his side. It was a heavy defeat on the night, but those players may get another opportunity to stake a claim for a spot in Garcia’s first team plans for future league action. This obviously means they will be heavily weakened, so why on earth would you want to jump onto them at odds-on?
Apollon could very well rotate their team too. They too have domestic action to consider, but they will surely want to make an impression on the European scene before departing for the year. They at least have a win to their name in this group, beating Lazio impressively 2-0 at home last time out. The home encounter with Marseille was an entertaining 2-2 draw. Less fireworks are anticipated on Thursday.
With a sparse crowd likely in the ground and Marseille not going to approach this with all of their might. We are going to have a very cheeky and little play on Apollon causing a little bit of a shock.
Apollon Double Chance is available at 93/50 (Marathon) and that is the way we are going.
Marseille have conceded 13 goals in their five group matches already. Whilst Apollon are already out, they have at least been competitive in all of their Europa League matches. They only lost 2-1 away in Lazio too. They at least enter this in decent spirits too, winning four out of their last five.
Our approach is not necessarily focusing on what Apollon can do, but what we don’t think Marseille will do. The French side shouldn’t be the price they are.
Sevilla v Krasnodar | Thursday 13th December 2018, 17:55 | BT Sport
The top two in Group J take on one another in Spain on Thursday when Sevilla and Krasnodar go head-to-head. It is advantage Krasnodar, who lead the group by three points from Sevilla and know a draw from this tricky away assignment confirms their spot as group winners. The Russian side are already definitely through to the next round.
Sevilla however have a little bit more work to do on the night. An outright win for them is enough to follow Krasnodar into the knockout round, but all they need to do is match the result of Standard Liege, who face Akhisarspor, but they’ve lost five from five. Sevilla therefore will look to get the job done themselves, and they can normally be relied upon to make an impression in the Europa League.
Sevilla will have aspirations of wanting to win the group themselves. They lost 2-1 in the away match in Russia back in October, so they have they will need to try and win a little convincingly if they wish to win the group outright. However, Krasnodar will not wish to let go of top spot without a fight, and we think they’ll give the La Liga team something to think about.
One thing Sevilla can generally be relied upon is their home form. The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium has been a fortress for many, many years now. Only Villarreal and Getafe have left the stadium with any points this season, and Sevilla have won their last eight in a row at home in all competitions.
Sevilla sit second in the Spanish top-flight, the Krasnodar are second in the Russian Premier League as well. Both teams therefore have been used to winning games of football for a good few months now, so picking a winner won’t be straightforward.
It is perhaps no surprise that Sevilla are the odds-on favourites to win. Their strong home form is certainly the major reason for this. They’ve already beaten Standard Liege and Akhisarspor 5-1 and 6-0 respectively in this group in front of their passionate supporters. However, with first place in this group up for grabs, it is unlikely to be that routine.
Those heavy wins have very much gone against the grain of Sevilla’s domestic results. They’ve generally been involved in much closer contests. Both teams have scored in 60% of their La Liga matches, with just over a half featuring Over 2.5 Goals. None of their home matches has contained over 3.5.
Krasnodar are very strong defensively. They’re only conceded an average of 0.76 goals per-game in the Russia league, which is below the average for that division. Only 12% of their domestic encounters has beat the 3.5 goal line.
The slight fear is that Sevilla make a blistering start, score an early goal and give Krasnodar a bit of a hiding, but we’ll back the Russians to make a good fist of this. However, we can only see them losing on the night.
Sevilla to win and Under 3.5 Goals is a tasty 6/4 (Betway) shot. Given both sides don’t tend to be involved in many matches over 3.5 this season, domestically that is, and with the group title to be decided between the two, this may be a bit of a tactical battle.