With the last 32 beginning to take shape, Matchday 5 in the UEFA Europa League and Conference League on Thursday may go a long away to determining winners of their respective Groups.
In the Europa League, that is very much the case for Arsenal. Travelling to the Netherlands on MD5, the Gunners visit PSV Eindhoven having drawn for the first time this season at Southampton and having struggled to break down their opponents here in the reverse fixture last Thursday. Far from the wheels falling off, Arsenal have failed to score more than a single goal in their last four in all comps and they could be in for a tricky time in Holland.
The north Londoners need a point to guarantee top spot; they should get that but perhaps not more given their current lack of form in front of goal. Indeed, we might consider backing the unders here, with under 1.5 goals at 18/5 with SportNation. The other punt we could have a go on is a player Arsenal are rumoured to have a strong interest in: Cody Gakpo. A best price of 23/10 with SpreadEx for the Dutchman to score anytime should be pondered.
In Group B, leaders Fenerbahce and Rennes face-off in a powder keg atmosphere in Istanbul. With both sides through already on 10 points apiece, this looks to be a Group decider. Both come into this with five wins on the bounce and whilst the Turks have won the last eight at home, Rennes are unbeaten since late August. The bookies cannot separate the sides, but our gut instinct says Fenerbahce will be too strong at Sucru Saracoglu at a good price of 18/11 with SBK.
Group F, meanwhile, remains the most delicately poised of all Europa League or Conference League groupings. After four games, remarkably, Lazio, Midtjylland, Sturm Graz and Feyenoord are all locked on five points with everything to play for. Two more tight games could be on the cards and it would be no surprise whatsoever if both games in Rome and Graz end in a draw. To keep it a bit safer though, we can see all four sides scoring on Thursday night and a BTTS acca double will fetch treble-your-stake odds in the region of 2/1, again with SBK.
Over in the Conference League, West Ham and Silkeborg meet at the London Stadium. Though the already-qualified – almost guaranteed to finish top also – Irons might put into action some decent squad rotation here, in six of nine of Silkeborg’s outings more recently over 3.5 goals have been scored – including in MD2’s 3-2 affair in Denmark. The visitors will have to be on the front foot with Anderlecht snapping at their heels and ahead of their showdown next week to close out the Group stages, any chance of a point could be pivotal. That should once more prompt an open contest and an educated 15/8 punt with PaddyPower for over 3.5 goals again, could win out.
Finally, sticking with third tier level, a tie that catches the eye is the all-Scandinavian affair in Group F between Norwegian champions Molde and likely Allsvenskan runners-up Djurgarden. With both sides expected to progress to the last 32, a win for Molde here will see the hosts draw level with their Swedish opponents, with the fight for top seed going down to MD6 next week, possibly decided by goal difference.
When the two met in MD2, a stoppage time Joel Asoro goal snatched the points and Molde will be keen on revenge. Djurgarden, however, have found their touch in front of goal of late and have netted 12 times in the last four outings, hitting four on Monday evening against Sundsvall and at home to Gent in MD4. Molde should come out on top here but we reckon the Swedes will get on the scoresheet and William Hill’s 5/2 offering could be smart.