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?...
The top two meet in Spain with identical records from their opening couple of Group A Europa League games, with Villarreal leading Slavia by a single goal to top the group. A draw would still keep both sides in the same position no matter how the other sides in the group – Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Astana get on in their game in the same evening. Both have had decent starts to their domestic campaigns with Slavia sitting in second place in the Czech League and Villarreal in their usual placing in La Liga, just behind the big boys. Home striker Cedric Bakambu is just behind Lionel Messi with seven La Liga goals so far in the campaign and he will have to be marked closely by the Prague backline for what will be the first ever meeting between the pair. Slavia will have ex-Chelsea and Fenerbahce winger Miroslav Stoch in their squad but aside from him, don’t have any other notable names.
What We Sayin’?
Slavia are used to winning games but we’re edging for the hosts to triumph in this one. A scorecast selection of Bakambu FGS and 3-1 Villarreal is 30/1.
Game of the night in our book sees Lazio head to the south of France to take on a Nice side who have had a pretty disappointing beginning to Ligue 1 this term after performing so well domestically in the last campaign and will face a Lazio team flying in Serie A and coming into this one with a man in sensational form in Ciro Immobile and off the back of a narrow win at Juventus at the weekend. Mario Balotelli will be up against his countrymen for this one and, let’s face it, nobody really knows whether he’ll have a cracking game or be a complete liability. There has been only one meeting between these two before – coming in a Club Friendly back in 2013 with Lazio winning that one. We expect similar on Thursday night for the first competitive clash.
What We Sayin’?
We’re going with a confident Lazio to defeat the hosts. Another 0-1 win for the Italian team? That’s 17/2.
After another uninspiring display at the weekend in their late 1-1 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion, the pressure is once again on Everton to get the right result at Goodison Park on Thursday night when Lyon head to Merseyside. The Toffees sit bottom of Group E, whilst Lyon currently occupy second place behind Atlanta, who of course smashed Ronald Koeman’s side in matchweek one. Everton really do need a win to kickstart their campaign and you’d expect Lyon to keep it tight in the early stages in the hope the home crowd perhaps turn on their team – particularly if it’s still 0-0 on the hour mark. Lyon have lost just once in Ligue 1 this season and will be confident they can knock any sort of confidence out of Koeman’s troops.
What We Sayin’?
A 1-1 scoreline would be our pick at 21/4.
Arsenal being Arsenal in normally turning over sides you’ve never heard of prior to losing against the big boys season in, season out, this trip to Serbia – despite what is likely to be a lively atmosphere – should be a comfortable trip for a Gunners side who will still be reeling from the weekend defeat to Watford. It’s expected that Arsene Wenger will once again rotate things for the game against Red Star Belgrade. The Gunners sit top of Group H, two points ahead of Red Star and know a win will all but secure their safe passage to the knockout round of the competition, where they’ll obviously face either Bayern Munich or Barcelona – somehow – and then get knocked out of the competition.
What We Sayin’?
We’re going for a comfortable 0-3 Arsenal win at 14/1.
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