After 11 winners from 13 tips in the Europa League so far this season, I’m looking for my third clean sweep in the last four rounds of fixtures. I’m going to have to work for it though as I have 6 tips. A 6/6 would be a great result and hopefully stretch my run to 17 wins from 19!!
Shaktor Karagandy v POAK Saloniki (3pm)
Karagandy are basically an unknown, but I’ve seen two of their Europa League matches so far, and they’ve been impressive in a resilient sort of way. They outclassed Maccabi Haifa at home for around an hour, going 2-0 up before eventually being pegged back. PAOK have already qualified, whereas Karagandy can’t qualify (barring a miracle). Neither have much to play for, but I think the home side will look to keep their unbeaten home form running having drawn with AZ and Haifa at home. The home side line up defensively with a view to hitting teams on the break and this will be no different today. I think they are tough to beat and will get a point, and maybe even sneak a win.
Lyon v Real Betis (6pm)
Betis are poor and have struggled domestically this season. In Europe they have been mediocre at best, with just three goals in their 4 games so far. However, they have shipped just one goal so sit top of the table with two 1-0 wins and 2 draws. The group is evenly poised and Lyon need three points here to give them the best chance of qualification. Anything but a win and they could drop out of the qualification places and have it all to do when they travel to Portugal for their final game.
Lyon haven’t lost in 8 at home now this season, so Betis will do well to get anything from the game in my opinion; which is why I think they are likely to play for the draw and why I am backing the home side.
AZ Alkmaar v Maccabi Haifa (6pm)
AZ have already all but qualified for the knockout stages, but they won’t take this game lightly and will look to take three points and hope their momentum in Europe can push on their domestic campaign after consecutive draws in the league. They will field a strong side and I expect the in form Johansson to play a part and cause problems for the visitors who have won just three of their last 14 matches. PSV have been one of the in form sides in Holland and with 7 wins and 3 draws in their last 10 games I think we are on the right side of the Asian Line here…
Ludogorets v PSV Eindhoven (8:05pm)
I have no idea why this is the price that it is… Ludogorets top the table with 10 points and conceded their only goal in four games in their 1-1 draw with Chornomorets last time out. They are 6 points clear in their domestic league and have won 15 of their last 19 matches, losing just once. PSV have been nothing short of disappointing so far this season, and although they could easily turn it around domestically (and in Europe), I don’t think this turnaround will start today – in their toughest game so far.
Ludogorets ‘shocked’ PSV by winning 2-0 in the reverse fixture, and a similar scoreline today seems very probable. Luckily for PSV, and probably for our bet (because the PSV players and staff will be aware of it), a defeat here today still leaves qualification to the knock-out stages in their own hands as they host Chornomorets in the final game. I can’t see PSV getting a win here with their defensive frailties at the minute, and I think a draw is unlikely too.
Pacos de Ferriera v Fiorentina (8:05pm)
Top of the group Fiorentina travel to bottom side Pacos with a chance to continue their dominance and guarantee themselves top spot. Only three points will do this and this is what I expect them to achieve. Comfortably.
Pacos have shipped 8 goals in their 4 games so far, scoring only once – against Pandurii. They have lost without scoring on three occasions, 2-0 to Dnipro twice, and 3-0 in the reverse fixture in Italy.
Chornomorets v Dinamo Zagreb (8:05pm)
The home side have to be up for this fixture. They know that a win is imperative if they want to have a realistic chance of qualification to the knockout stages. Without a defeat at home since April, the home side will be confident of getting all three points. They face a Zagreb side that haven’t scored away in Europe, losing 2-0 at PSV and 3-0 at Ludogorets. In their last 5 games on the road (Europe/League), they have failed to score on four occasions.
The added incentive for the home side is what makes this a very good value bet in my eyes. Having lost their two home games so far in this group, they know they need three points here. The game is being played at a neutral ground (the home ground of Vitoria Guimaraes), so home advantage will me minimal. Players have been rested for this trip, as expected, but the squad is strong enough to get three points.
Sh. Karagandy v POAK – Karagandy +0.50 (2.10 – Winner)
Lyon v Betis – Lyon Win (1.91 – Bet Victor)
AZ v Maccabi Haifa – AZ -1.00 (1.85 – Bet365)
Ludogorets v PSV – Ludogorets +0.00 (2.35 – Pinnacle)
Pacos v Fiorentina – Fiorentina -1.00 (2.02 Ladbrokes)
Chornomorets v Zagreb – Chorno -0.75 (1.92 -Bet Victor)