Europa League Tips: Thursday 22nd October
After two nights of action in the Champions League, the focus now turns to the second major UEFA Competition starting this week, the Europa League.
The first games in the tournament were played on the 9th August with a number of games being played to decide which teams will join those already seeded in the draw.
Twelve groups of 4 teams make up the draw and there are some very big names in the competition this year…
Roma, Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham, Leicester City, Rangers, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, Napoli, Celtic, Milan and Villarreal are just some of the teams competing in the group stage, while after Christmas, the 24 qualifiers from this phase will be joined by the eight 3rd place teams from the Champions League Group Stages.
The first week of action has seen a number of very interesting matches including Celtic facing AC Milan, Napoli v AZ67 Alkmaar, Standard Liege v Rangers while Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester face, LASK Linz, Rapid Vienna and Zorya Luhansk respectively.
Here are my my tips for this week.
Europa League Betting Tips: Thursday 22nd October
This is a game where I think Mikel Arteta may well rest a number of first team players after a busy international break and then a game at the weekend against Manchester City. As such, I don’t feel Arsenal will field their strongest team here, but even the Gunners’ second-string team should be a tough match for Rapid Vienna.
The Austrian side have been in decent form domestically, winning three and drawing one of their four games so far and with a cup game at the weekend, they have had extra time to prepare for this game in more detail than most.
That said, the gulf in quality of the two squads cannot be overstated here and even with a likely weaker side out, I still feel Arsenal are comfortably the stronger of the two teams and with that in mind, I think it is likely that the Gunners will land the win here.
The only question is if they do that without conceding a goal and I think their back line is a bit shaky at times still when the first choice are not playing, so I am going to go for both teams scoring here, but Arsenal coming away with the points.
Gerrard will know that this is the week that they have some real tests, starting with the Old Firm derby last Saturday and followed by their first Europa League group game, away to Standard Liege, on the Thursday night.
In a group that also includes Benfica and Lech Poznan, picking up points away from home is going to be crucial for any team hoping to qualify for the Knockout stage in the New Year and Rangers will certainly have an eye on doing that here.
Standard have made a decent start to their league campaign, losing just twice, Rangers have also started brightly but as always, it will be the results of those crucial Old Firm games that will likely decide whether they can ease Celtic’s stranglehold on Scottish Football’s top honour.
For this game, I think Rangers are the slightly better team and I was impressed with their away performances last season in this competition, however I feel a win may just be beyond them here, so I am going to take a draw.
Celtic’s record against AC Milan over the years is not great and they have managed just one win over the Italian giants in ten attempts and that came with the help of a last-minute goal. The Italians therefore have the upper hand in this fixture over the years, but I do feel the teams are somewhat more evenly matched now than they have been in the recent past.
Both teams head into this fixture in relatively good from. The Rossonieri have won all their Serie A games so far this season (ahead of their weekend clash with Inter) but it is fair to say that they have had a relatively easy start to the season so far in terms of fixtures.
Celtic have also started brightly in their domestic league but there is something that always worries me with Celtic in these games and that is their propensity to make silly mistakes, or to play below their usual standard and end up dropping points in key games.
I fear against a Milan side brimming with confidence and with a great record against the Celts, that could well be the case again here and I am backing the Italian side to come away with the win.
I am pretty confident that Jose Mourinho will be picking a second-string Tottenham team for this game given the amount of fixtures that his first choice players will have played. While LASK have produced some decent results in Europe, their performance against Manchester United in the Round of 16 last season, where they were comprehensively beaten, may well make Spurs think they should have a good chance even with key players rested.
It will be interesting to see whether Gareth Bale gets game time here as he is believed to be pretty close to a return. If he is not involved at the weekend, then I would expect the Welshman to be involved at some point in this game tonight.
LASK have produced some decent performances in Europe over the last few years but when they have come up against the very best teams, they have struggled and even if Spurs do play a second-string, they should still be too strong for Linz at home.
As such, I am backing Tottenham to win this game relatively comfortably and in truth, I don’t really see Linz scoring a goal in the process. This to me looks like a 2-0 win for Spurs and that would be a decent start to their Europa League campaign.
*Tips are exactly that tips (predictions) and do not guarantee success.