With the Champions League semi-final first-legs in the book, Thursday night sees the Europa League and Conference League in the limelight, with four intriguing semi-finals in play.
First, at the London Stadium, West Ham United play one of their most important games in the Club’s history against Barcelona’s conquerors Eintracht Frankfurt. This will be a repeat of the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final when the Irons knocked out their German opponents before losing to Anderlecht in their own back yard in the final at Heysel Stadium – the closest West Ham have come to winning a second European trophy since.
For David Moyes’ men, having knocked out three-time winners Sevilla and then Lyon, the Eagles will be another stern test after their own victory over La Blaugrana in the last eight. Nevertheless, West Ham are the marginal favourites to make next month’s final at 5/8 with VBet.
Craig Dawson’s goal in France in the quarter-finals went a long way to booking their passage here and for the aerially dominant veteran to make a further impression, SkyBet’s boosted 12/1 for Dawson to score a header can be had, or to register just 1 shot on target at 3/1 with Betfair. The players who represent a real threat to West Ham are Serbian playmaker Filip Kostic and Japanese forward Daichi Kamada. For either man to score in 90 mins, 28/5 odds with SBK or 26/5 with SportingIndex can be grabbed respectively.
In the other Europa League semi, Rangers also face Bundesliga opposition in Leipzig for the first leg, with a potential all-British final in Seville on the horizon. However, standing in the way of that lie the dangerous Lower Saxony outfit. That said, Leipzig have only won once in Europe at the Red Bull Arena this season – albeit impressively against Manchester City – and the Scottish side should not be overawed after putting four past Borussia Dortmund on their last trip to Germany. To pull off a draw Rangers are a promising 22/5 or alternatively 27/5 to score over 1.5 goals, both with Unibet.
The potent Christopher Nkunku could be the scourge of Glasgow having netted three times in the knockout stages after dropping down from the Champions League earlier this term. To notch another brace after his quarter-final double over Atalanta, a SkyBet boost of 6/1 should appeal greatly. If a player scorer double ticks a box, an Nkunku goal coupled with a James Tavernier goal – the Englishman on penalty duties – fetches a cool 16/1 with SkyBet.
The Europa Conference League, meanwhile, may have taken a back seat on a Thursday evenings this term, but both semi-finals here are equally attractive. Not least Leicester City’s clash with AS Roma, as Jose Mourinho returns to England in the first-leg to lock horns with Brendan Rodgers. The Foxes’ main task will be stopping a rampant Tammy Abraham who has been a revelation in Rome this season, but Leicester will by boosted by the possible return of Jamie Vardy in attack. In Leicester’s last home meeting with Serie A opposition, a 2-2 draw played out with Napoli and it would be no shock for a repeat scoreline. Either a 5/2 draw with Bet365 could suit, or for that same stipulated scoreline at 16/1 with SBK.
The fourth semi on the menu sees Marseille play Feyenoord, with both sides having been crowned either European champions or UEFA Cup winners in their past. The latter were involved in a 10-goal aggregate thriller against Slavia Prague last time out and a similar encounter could be on the cards with over 2.5 goals being scored in 14 of L’OM’s games since February. In 11 of Feyenoord’s last 14 games also, the three-goal tally been reached. A repeat here in Rotterdam looks likely but to get any real value, over 3.5 goals at 9/5 with PariMatch could still easily come in.