Europa League Tips: Thursday 18th February
We are into a busy period of games in the Europa League starting this week as the round of 32 commences.
Manchester United are one of the notable names dropping into this competition from the Champions League and they will be one of the favourites to win it.
They join four other British teams, Arsenal, Rangers, Tottenham and Leicester City in the competition and that does look like a strong representation from the teams in the UK.
Unsurprisingly, these teams will provide the basis of my tips this week for you in this article.
Keep your eyes peeled on Thursday’s for our regular Europa League tips as they will be coming thick and fast over the next few weeks and months as we head towards the sharp end of the tournament.
Europa League Betting Tips: Thursday 18th February
This should be a very entertaining game. Sociedad started the season well in La Liga and were the leaders for a portion of the early part of the season. However, their form has tailed off a little since then with a few defeats and a lot of drawn games seeing them drop down the table.
In contrast, United had a relatively slow start to the season but their form, especially at home as their away form has been superb for over a year now, picked up markedly and they now lie second in the Premier League ahead of this weekend’s games. Arguably, they look most likely to be Manchester City’s chief rivals for the title.
What makes this game appealing to me is United’s away form. They have been superb on the road over the past 12 months and are unbeaten in the Premier League away from home this season. They have also picked up some big wins on the road in Europe too, most notably in Paris against PSG.
Sociedad are no jugs of course and they will push United hard I am sure, but I think that United have enough talent to grab a big win here to set up a more comfortable second leg at Old Trafford.
I have to be honest and say that this tip was the one that I was most undecided about when I compiled this list. That came from the excellent performance Antwerp put in against Tottenham in the Europa League group stages back in October where they were deserving 1-0 winners over Spurs on home soil.
I did wonder if Rangers could improve on that at all, but I have watched a fair few Rangers games this season and I think Steven Gerrard has his team in confident mood and having come through a tough group in the Group Stages of this tournament, I don’t think they are going to be fazed playing Antwerp.
While I don’t think either of these teams has the capability to win this tournament, I think both are good enough to cause a few problems for the top teams left in it and while I expect this to be a close game, I do feel that Rangers just about have the edge.
I almost went for the draw here, but in the end, I am backing Rangers to nab a late winner to take a narrow lead back to Ibrox.
This is a tough game for Arsenal against a side who are probably a little disappointed with their current fourth position in their domestic league. Benfica are a quality team with a number of quality players including ex Premier League stars Jan Vertonghen, Adel Taarabt and Nicolas Otamendi.
The Gunners recent form has not been the best and is kindly best described as inconsistent. They face Leeds this weekend in a mid-table EPL battle and unfortunately, that is where about Mikel Arteta’s team are at the moment.
Hope for the future for Arsenal comes in the form of some very talented young players, Bakary Sako being the main star, but Emile Smith Rowe, who earned plenty of experience in this competition last year in particular, is also coming to the fore.
Going to Lisbon to land a win is always a big ask and in truth I don’t think this Arsenal team is equipped with enough talent to do that. However, I think they will still be well in this tie come the second leg as I am backing Benfica to win by a single goal.
If you look at all the teams in this competition, these are two of the most in-form teams competing in it. Both are top of their domestic leagues, both are in great form and both have experience of not just the Europa League, but also the Champions League in recent times, including this season in Ajax’s case.
As such, I think this is one of the more attractive and competitive games in the Europa League this week and I think it offered good odds for punters. Ajax are a big name and I think the bookies may well have been swayed by that for this game.
I do feel Lille have been undervalued by the bookies and that was a big part in my decision to back this game. The French side have won all of their last six and included in that is a win over Paris St Germain at home. That is a very big scalp.
Ajax are a good side but they are beatable as Liverpool and Atalanta proved in the group stages of the Champions League. Lille I feel are a great value bet here as a result especially in the home leg and I am backing them to earn a narrow win here.
*Tips are exactly that tips (predictions) and do not guarantee success.