MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has scoured Thursday’s Europa League card on the hunt for the best possible betting opportunities.
Lazio v St Etienne | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport 2
Lazio boast a flawless record in Rome so far this season and the Biancocelesti represent a decent bet at 4/5 (Bet365) to make it five wins from five at the Stadio Olimpico when St Etienne visit on Thursday night.
Stefan de Vrij’s continued absence remains a concern defensively but the return of Lucas Biglia has proven to be a huge boost for the Eagles. It’s no surprise to see Lazio bag back-to-back victories following the Argentine’s arrival back in the XI with the defensive shield firming up the Romans backline.
The hosts have only suffered two Europa League losses in 23 now and were just minutes away from a fantastic win at last season’s finalists Dnipro in their opener. Still, a 1-1 draw in Ukraine deserves plenty of credit and their outstanding W8-D3-L1 figures from their past 12 European home fixtures will provide Stefano Pioli’s men with plenty of confidence.
Looking closer we can see Lazio have come out on top in 16 of their previous 23 games at the Olimpico and they should have enough in their ranks to dispatch an uninspiring St Etienne. Les Verts were humbled 4-1 at home to Nice last time out and are winless in Europa League group stage games since the start of last season (albeit drawing six of their seven matches).
Christophe Galtier's men have won five of their last six Ligue 1 matches and are currently PSG’s closest challengers domestically but a kind schedule has aided their efforts and uninspiring results against Moldovan side Milsami during qualifying and a late 2-2 draw at home to Rosenborg is hardly earth-shattering.
Basel v Lech Poznan | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport Extra
Basel have claimed Swiss Super League honours on 10 occasions this millennium and having started their campaign back in mid-July, the Red and Blues have already climbed to the summit with a W9-D0-L1 start. Throw in their results from all competitions and that record reads W14-D2-L1.
On Thursday night FCB are back in Europa League action at St Jakob Park (the destination for the 2015/16 final) playing host to a familiar foe. Basel have already beaten Polish outfit Lech Poznan twice this season, during Champions League qualifying. Back in August, Urs Fischer's men were 1-0 winners on home soil and 3-1 victors back in Poznan before eventually losing out to Maccabi Haifa and dropping into the Europa League.
Naturally, I’d expect the Swiss club to swipe the Poles aside once more. At the St Jakob, Basel are unbeaten in eight this term with seven wins already under their belts whilst Fischer's troops also brought down Fiorentina in Florence during their Europa League group opener.
I’m going to back Basel to win with a -1 Asian Handicap at 13/15 with Unibet – that’s 1.87 in decimals. Should they win by just one goal, we get our cash back. A victory by two goals or more is deemed a winner.
The Red and Blues have despatched Sporting Lisbon, Dnipro, Zenit St Petersburg, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Valencia and Ludogorets by two goals or more on home soil across the past two three years whilst also beating Chelsea and Liverpool in Champions League action. With Lech W4-D5-L8 since their first meeting with Basel in July, it’s hard to believe they’ll be capable of upsetting the odds.
PAOK Thessaloniki v Borussia Dortmund | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Dortmund have won all five of their Europa League matches under Thomas Tuchel’s watch plundering a whopping 19 goals. But a trip to Greece on Thursday night isn’t quite what the doctor ordered with Der Klassiker against Bayern Munich looming large on the horizon.
BVB beat Krasnodar in their opening Europa tie and had made a record-breaking start to the 2015/16 campaign. However, back-to-back Bundesliga draws have seen the Black & Yellows fall four points off rivals and leaders Bayern – who boast a 100% record.
Despite public statements to the contrary, Dortmund will have their eyes set on Sunday’s Munich meeting and a tie against PAOK is unlikely to be top of their agenda. The visitors will be without injured trio Nuri Sahin, Erik Durm and Neven Subotic and although they’re still the likeliest Thursday night winners, it should pay to oppose a big Dortmund victory.
PAOK have won all three European home games this term – scoring 12 times without conceding and have also enjoyed a promising start to their domestic campaign, sitting fourth in the Super League with 10 points from five matches. Igor Tudor's men were held to a goalless draw in Qabala in their curtain-raiser and arrive off the back of a 2-1 win over Atromitos.
Dimitar Berbatov and Robert Mak sealed a comeback victory, with the former now set to make his first start in PAOK colours this midweek. I don’t think we can go too far wrong than backing the Two-Headed-Eagle off a +1.5 Asian Handicap start at 4/6 with BetVictor. We’ll be paid out should the Greeks avoid defeat and even if they lose by a solitary goal – we’ll only lose our stake should Dortmund win by two or more goals.
Tuchel’s troops have won by two goals or more in just two of their seven away days this term and in neither Europa trip to face minnows Wolfsberger AC or Odd during qualification. PAOK have been beaten by the same margin just twice in 85 matches at their Toumba Stadium base.
Club Brugge v FC Midtjylland | Thursday 20.05 | BT Sport Extra
Danish champions FC Midtjylland sit three points clear at the top of the tree in their domestic league table (W6-D3-L1) and ran out deserved 1-0 winners when entertaining Legia Warsaw in their Europa League opener so I’m not quite sure why they’ve been so vastly underrated for this trip to Brugge.
Since the start of the season Jess Thorup’s charges have W12-D4-L2 in all competitions and kept their sheets clean in all 12 victories and in 14/18 matches overall. That’s a return that demands complete respect and remember the Wolves did dump Southampton out of the qualifying stages of this competition too. They’re no slouches.
On the road they’ve managed W6-D3-L0 and that includes three European road trips too so at 21/20 (Boylesports), Midtjylland look a decent value bet to avoid defeat in beautiful Brugge in the Double Chance market
Unlike their visitors, Club have been a sea of inconsistency since taking the runners-up spot in the Belgian Pro League last term. The Blue-Black have W7-D1-L8 and whilst they tend to fare well at their Jan Breydel Stadium, I don’t believe they’re on the same level as the odds suggest.
Napoli destroyed Michel Preud'homme’s men 5-0 in the Sao Paolo in their Europa League opener whilst Manchester United ran out 4-0 winners in a Champions League qualifier at the Jan Breydel, highlighting how far the hosts are from the top table of continental football.
Lazio v St Etienne – Lazio to win (4/5 Bet365)
Basel v Lech Poznan – Basel -1 Asian Handicap (13/15 Unibet)
PAOK Thessaloniki v Borussia Dortmund – PAOK Thessaloniki +1.5 Asian Handicap (4/6 BetVictor)
Club Brugge v FC Midtjylland – FC Midtjylland double chance (21/20 Boylesports)