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?...
Yet to concede on home turf in their three Europa League matches this term, Villarreal will be hoping to break that clean sheet record when they head to the Czech capital on Thursday evening as the top two in Group A meet in Prague. The hosts will be missing striker Muris Mesanovic for the clash, but a couple of key men in Dusan Svento and Simon Deli return to the fold for boss Jaroslav Silhavy.
Their Spanish opponents have a pair of goalkeepers out injured in the form of regular number one Sergio Asenjo and Andres Fernandez, whilst full back Jaume Costa could also be missing after picking up an injury at the weekend. The returning Bruno Soriano and Ruben Semedo will be boosts for the visitors, but we fancy this one to end up in a point apiece – just like it ended in the first match between the pair in Spain the other week. If so, Astana could capitalise and top the group with a win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
The top two in Group K meet in Rome as Lazio host Nice, who make the trip to Italy from the south of France. A win will seal progress to the knockout stages for the hosts who have beaten each of the other three teams in their group – including Nice away. The Italian outfit have won their last six games in all competitions – including victory over Thursday night’s opponents, whilst Nice have lost their last five in all competitions. Their last win came at the end of September.
Lazio have won both of the meetings the two have had in the past, and they have also scored two or more goals in each of their three Europa League games this season. They have also won seven from 17 games against French opponents and have won 50% of the home matches against French opponents, too, so everything points to a home victory in this one.
It’s must win time for the Toffees, whose Europa League stint this term has been just as bad as their league form, and with a victory desperately needed, a trip to Lyon certainly isn’t the easiest test for the Merseysiders. Lyon have won their last four whilst Everton have lost their last four and the visitors are without a number of their big players such as Seamus Coleman, whilst aside from Clement Grenier, Lyon will be full strength for the visit of David Unsworth and his troops.
The last meeting was a feisty encounter and with Everton’s Europa League fate clinging by a thread, we expect there will be fireworks at the Groupama Stadium. Everton were awful at the weekend against Leicester City and although things may improve in Europe, we still expect Lyon to have enough in their locker to ensure another victory.
It’s expected Arsene Wenger will again rotate his team for the Europa League clash at home to Red Star Belgrade at the Emirates Stadium. Whether he does or doesn’t, Sead Kolasinac is out due to picking up a hip injury this week. At home, the Gunners are a force to be reckoned with, winning all of their last 13 matches on home turf, which is their best run of form since moving into their stadium 11 years ago. Another win to the tally will ensure progression to the knockout stages of the competition and ensure they’ll snatch top spot in the group with victory and BATE Borisov failing to get a win against Cologne.
Red Star have won one, drawn one and lost one from their opening three games in Group H, but will have a dangerman in forward Richmond Boakye, who has 14 goals already this season for the Serbian side. Another win will see the Gunners equal their best opening European group stage record with four straight victories and they’ll fancy their chances of finding the net at least once – after all, they have only failed to score in one of their last 26 games in Europe.
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