After the Lord Mayor's Show, AKA the Champions League, it's poorer cousin comes into play on Thursday night - the Europa League. Yes, we know you probably aren't huge fans of these group stage clashes, but we've grabbed a handful of clashes that look to be sure fire money-makers. Surely?...
Now listen, with it being the week the Ashes squad was announced, we’ll go straight off the bat with a confession. We know absolutely nothing about visitors HNK Rijeka aside from the fact that they are a Croatian outfit, with their only notable player being ex-West Brom and Huddersfield Town full back Jason Davidson. The Australian apparently played five times for the Baggie between 2014 and 2015, and we reckon even their own fans won’t recollect him donning the blue and white shirt. What we do know is all about Milan though. The famous old club whose glory days are well behind them now, and despite the addition of Sunderland flop Fabio Borini, spirits and hopes are high for a brighter future. They’ll certainly fancy their chances in this competition following some shrewd summer signings – including the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, Hakan Calhanoglu and Andre Silva, amongst others. This will be a big win for AC. A 5-0 scoreline – in the home side’s favour, of course - is a 20/1 shot.
All of a sudden, this game at home to the Cypriot side has turned into pretty much a must-win clash for hosts Everton following their humiliating defeat and embarrassing performance in matchweek one against Atalanta. The Toffees find themselves lingering at the bottom of Group E, with opponents Limassol picking up a decent draw at home to Lyon on the same evening Everton were turned over. The visitors have someone from British shores in their squad in the form of Alastair Reynolds, born in Edinburgh but since 2006 has played his football in Cyprus, and spent last season on loan at Ayia Napa. Bet that was a laugh for the former Scotland U19 player. Anyway, we’re backing Everton for this one – anything less than a win and Ronald Koeman’s side could well be heading into troubled waters even at this early stage of the competition. A comfortable 2-0 home win is a 5/1 shot.
Elsewhere in Group E, the top two meet in France as Lyon look to make home advantage count against leaders Atalanta who will be in confident – and slightly more relaxed – mood following their opening week win at home to Everton. It’s been a pretty good start in Ligue 1 for the hosts who have averaged two goals a game domestically. But Atalanta have a couple of players we know well from their time in England, including ex-Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon and former Cardiff forward Andreas Cornelius. They have shown they can score in this competition and we really wouldn’t be surprised if this one ends in a draw, which will probably suit the Italian club better than their French hosts. A straight up point apiece is 13/5.
Now we’ve already heard all the Arsenal Champions League or Thursday nights on Channel 5 jokes already, and you probably don’t need us to tell you that they’re pretty much the same as James Milner these days; old and boring. The Gunners probably won’t take this competition seriously until the latter stages of the tournament, which means Arsene Wenger is likely to be resting a few of his star names for the trip to Belarus, which means this one has all the ingredients of a brilliant night of Arsenal Fan TV footage. But let’s get real, as Claude from the channel would say, Arsenal should have enough to get past a BATE side who, in all honesty, have absolutely nobody who we’ve ever heard of and winning the Belarus Premier League 11 seasons on the spin still doesn’t temp us to go with an upset on Thursday night. An Arsenal win, but a slightly more specific bet is for that man Olivier Giroud to score first at 13/5. He’s a man who usually produces the goods whenever he’s called upon.
Marseille made some excellent signings this summer, which will sound slightly surprising to Fulham supporters who will have been left with open mouths after the French side parted with £15m to sign Whites flop Kostas Mitroglu from Benfica. Another notable capture was that of Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo, who has been there and done it for what seems like decades now. Steve Mandanda is a safe pair of hands, despite not having the best of time at Crystal Palace, whilst the likes of Aymen Abdennour and Clinton N’Jie strengthen their defence and attack. For Salzburg, they’ve lost just once in the Austrian Premier League so far this term and will fancy their chances of progressing either way from Group I considering the other sides in there are Vitoria Guimaraes and Konyaspor. An away win at 15/8 looks – on paper at least – a simple yet effective way to double your money and a bit more.
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