With the Champions League Group stages in the books, Thursday night sees the conclusion of the Europa League equivalent.
So far, 11 of 32 teams are safely through, but only Real Betis, Union Saint-Gilloise, Freiburg and Hungarian side Ferencvaros have guaranteed their place as winners, going straight through to the last 16. Sides will be keen to avoid finishing second as not only will an extra two games await in the new year, but the eight third-placed teams from the UCL drop down to join the pool of 32, including the likes of Barcelona, Juventus and Ajax.
Things could get complicated on Thursday night, but where can we look for a good punt?
Beginning in Group A, Arsenal’s plans for a simple passage were derailed with defeat away at PSV on MD5, but destiny remains firmly in their hands. The Gunners will win finish top with victory against FC Zurich or if the Dutch side do not beat Bodo/Glimt on the artificial pitch in Norway – which as Arsenal discovered is not easy. With Chelsea to come on Sunday but still needing to guarantee top spot, it is hard to call just what sort of team Mikel Arteta might name. Fabio Vieira, however, looks likely to start and a goal for the Portuguese midfielder will reel in a 19/10 price with VBet.
For Manchester United meanwhile, the story on MD6 is simple: Win well or face a potentially tricky last 32 meeting. As they travel to the Basque Country to face Real Sociedad, the Red Devils were turned over by the La Liga side on MD1 and must win by at least two goals at the Reale Arena. Sociedad have a perfect record in Group E, but only days ago lost 2-0 at home to Betis which will give United hope. We fancy this could be a bit of a heated encounter and for the hosts to receive 30+ booking points, 11/10 odds with SkyBet has every chance of a win.
AS Roma’s goal is the same in Group C. With Betis having already claimed winner’s rights, Jose Mourinho’s men and Ludogorets meet in the Eternal City, with the Giallorossi needing a win to leapfrog their opponents for second spot. The Bulgarians may elect to sit fairly deep here needing only a draw at stated, so could we see a tight contest at the Stadio Olimpico? If that is your inclination, under 2.5 goals at a decent 6/4 with SkyBet could satisfy.
In Group F, the picture – as it has been for the majority of the Group stages – remains wholly unclear and all four of Lazio, Feyenoord, Sturm Graz and Midtjylland can finish top but also last. Though Lazio currently sit at the top of the ladder, a difficult trip to Feyenoord awaits with the Dutch side needing a two-goal win to guarantee their progress. That would in turn knock the Biancocelesti out.
With goals needed as documented, a 2-2 result has played out in the Feyenoord’s two home games of the competition up to now and it is quite conceivable the same scoreline comes in here. A 13/1 shot with SBK is quite appealing. Alternatively, a bet of over 3.5 goals at 15/8 with PaddyPower, or a boosted 7/2 punt with William Hill for both teams to score in the first half, can be snagged.
Finally, if we are looking elsewhere for goals, Group B should draw interest. After Rennes and Fenerbahce played out a six-goal thriller last week, it is the Turkish who remain top by a goal difference of just +1. Both through to the knockouts, the two will be in a straight shootout to see who scores the more on Thursday night. Rennes are in dazzling form in front of goal in both Ligue 1 and in Europe and to score 3+ goals at home to Larnaca are 4/5 with Betfair. Fenerbahce have a tricky enough task to win in Krakow versus Dynamo Kyiv, however, if we throw in Fener to net 3 goals also, an acca double will tot up to something in the region of 5.6/1 with Sporting Index.