FOOTBALL analyst Ben Levene (@benlevene96) looks ahead to Thursday night's Europa League qualifiers, picking out his favourite fancies.
AEK Larnaca v Trencin | Thursday 30th August, 16:30
Slovakian-based Trencin oversaw Feyenoord an eye-catching 5-1 on aggregate, but that scoreline didn’t match the performance across the two-legs. Trencin are now winless in four and have conceded 10 goals in their last five matches.
They drew 1-1 when hosting AEK Larnaca last Thursday, and the Cypriot outfit now hold an advantage on away goals.
Larnaca have a formidable home record. Since the start of the 2016/17 campaign their home record reads W38-D10-L4. More significantly, 33 of those 38 wins have come in games seeing over 1.5 goals. They’ve won by 2+ in 15 of those 38 and have scored three or more goals in nine of their last 15 home games. Since the start of last season, AEK Larnaca have played six Europa League ties and won five of those to nil. It’s convincing stuff.
The Cypriot side had the better of the chances in the reverse leg and could build on their away goal advantage. Their best work in qualification so far has come at home, winning a cumulative 9-0 across the legs they hosted against Dundalk and Sturm Graz.
Given Trencin’s poor recent defensive record, and Larnaca’s phenomenal home form, I’m happy to back a home win in a game feature over 1.5 goals at 4/5 (Blacktype). Like has already been alluded to, it’s landed in 87% of their home games over the last two and a bit seasons.
I’m also going to chance Larnaca -2 on the Asian Handicap at 27/10 (Bet365). It sees our stake void if they win by exactly two goals. They’ve surpassed this mark in both of their previous qualifiers and should Trencin open up in chase of a goal, the hosts can punish them.
Besiktas v Partizan | Thursday 30th August, 19:00
Besiktas surprised all by making the knockout phase of the Champions League last season. The Turkish giants topped a group of Porto, Leipzig and Monaco. They were unbeaten at home against those three sides with much made of the hostile atmosphere after Timo Werner and Leipzig were spooked.
Hostile atmospheres won’t be alien to Partisan Belgrade but they’re still likely to struggle against a backline martialled by Pepe and Domagoj Vida. European regulars Atiba Hutchinson and former Arsenal-man Oguzhan Ozyakup should be able to control the game from Midfield and it’s difficult to see the Black Eagles being breached.
Besiktas have made a lax start to the season however they’re kept clean sheets in both home European qualifiers this campaign and can repeat that feat here. A Besiktas clean sheet is Evens with Coral.
FCSB v Rapid Vienna | Thursday 30th August, 19:30
Steau Bucharesti find themselves chasing the game after losing 3-1 to Rapid Vienna in Austria.
FCSB did win the xG count though and boast a recent home record of W10-D3-L0 – including a win over Lazio in this competition last season. They've won the home leg of both previous qualifiers this season.
The Austrians have lost two away games in the bounce including the first-leg of their Europa League tie against Slovan Bratislava.
The 55,000-seater national stadium can spur the Romanians to a victory at 21/20 (Boylesports). That price will be shorter come kick-off.
AEK Larnaca v Trencin – AEK Larnaca to win and over 1.5 goals (4/5 Blacktype)
AEK Larnaca v Trencin – AEK Larnaca -2 Asian Handicap (27/10 Bet365)
Besiktas v Partizan – Besiktas to keep a clean sheet (1/1 Coral)
FCSB v Rapid Vienna – FCSB to win (21/20 Boylesports)