Last night, the Champions League first legs were as tricky as usual although Juventus continue their excellent second half scoring. Leicester should have lost 3-1 but will be delighted with a 2-1. Amazing wasn't it that yet again in a Valencia v Real Madrid match that one of the teams should score 2 goals. At 2-0 up, Real Madrid got a goal back (cautious traders out!) but could not push on! Fulham won with the ease I expected but the market was a complete mystery to me why they were not very short odds favourites! On to today....
Yes I hate it as much as you! No not just the Europa League, but missing apostrophes! Apologies but it is down to the laptop I use when I am away from home. It has decided that the apostrophe key is of no further use to me!
On to the Europa League, and it is second leg matches so we have something to work with. Still some matches are imponderables but matches such as Zenits match (missing apostrophe!) v Anderlecht catch my attention. Ajax home record is so good I would focus on that match with an expectation for Ajax not losing. Shakhtar maintain a 100% win record in the Europa League in 2016 onwards. So that is another match with a potential angle into it (favouring the home side). The market has sided heavily with Tottenham tonight so (team news at the ready), have faith in the market and a Tottenham win by 2 goals at least?
Other matches see teams with clear cut leads who can afford a manageable loss this evening. So matches without that must-win factor always leave a question mark.
16:00 - Osmanlispor v Olympiakos - 2.84 Osma
- All to play for in this second leg of the Europa League after a 0-0 first leg. It must be advantage Olympiakos here because if they score an away goal, Osmanlispor must score 2 goals.
- Potential scorelines from this scenario are 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 2-1 if I am overtly favouring Olympiakos.
- I am afraid Olympiakos past form in this competition suggests they do not care for it. Loss, Win, Draw, Draw, Loss, Draw. And this from a team who gave the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid the run around at home in the Champions League!
- Olympiakos do have 2 recent 0-1 wins to their name away so there is cause for optimism.
- In Osmanlispor they meet a Turkish side I have not heard of for a long while. They have battled from qualifiers to be here and show a natural desire to continue that Olympiakos may not.
- In 7 consecutive matches, at least one team scored 2 goals until the abrupt 0-0 v Oly.
- What of today? Osmanlispor simply must score and score 2 goals in order to cover an Olympiakos goal. That or go for a 0-0.
18:00 - Zenit St Petersburg v Anderlecht - 1.63 Zenit
- Now this is one of those interesting Europa League 2nd legs you look for. Anderlecht have a 2-0 lead but the market has inserted Zenit as 1.63 favourites suggesting that the market expects Zenit to go on and win today, possibly replicating the 2-0 which they require for parity on aggregate.
- Zenit will have to end a 2 match losing streak in this competition. Their home form though is very impressive. 8 wins and a 2-2 v Sevilla suggests to me that Zenit take this competition seriously. It also tells me that they have 2 goals in them (8 of those 9 home matches saw Zenit score 2 goals).
- Anderlecht scored and conceded in 6 matches preceding their clean sheet to Zenit.
- The conceded at least one goal in each of their last 3 away matches.
- For me, this is a match I want to watch for. I would enter this match looking for a Zenit 2-0 and then work from there. Zenit have shown an ability to do this. I am of course dismissing the 2-0 Anderlecht win. Maybe I shouldn't? But I am taken by the markets confidence.
18:00 - Roma v Villarreal - 1.76 Roma
- An Eden Dzeko hatrick (the old boy still has it!) sees game over really with a 0-4 Roma win away at Villareal.
- Villareal need a miracle! Oh dear. Roma have scored 4-3-4 goals in their last 3 home matches so they may not let up tonight!
- Villareal may field a weakened side this evening so look out for this if their manager thinks this is a pointless leg. Their Europa League form is very poor.
- And with 3 consecutive away score draws, a score draw is the best they can hope for.
- Do remember, Roma still go through losing 0-3!! I do think though that they could actually win this evening.
18:00 - Besiktas v Hapoel Beer Sheva - 1.73 Besiktas
- At 1-3 to Besiktas you'd think this tie is all over. But on closer inspection, Besiktas first goal was an own goal, and their last goal was a 90th minute goal. I am always suspicious of late goals as it detracts from the fact the other sides defence kept the team to only 2 goals for 89 minutes (and only one goal scored by themselves!).
- This is a positive nod towards Hapoel Beer Sheva who have loved their Champions League journey and now their Europa League journey.
- The fact remains that Hapoel need to score 3 goals regardless of that home goal they scored. This is a tough ask. They could give it a go and a 0-2 would not surprise but Besiktas could nick a goal so a 1-2 might be a play.
- Please note the "might be" above . It is pure conjecture not backed by the kind of stats evidence I have with domestic football.
18:00 - Ajax v Legia Warsaw - 1.48 Ajax
- Ajax are tough to beat in the Europa league. Unbeaten in 2016 on.
- 0-0 with Legia from the first round and for me Ajax must score 2 goals in case Legia score.
- They have managed to score in their last 4 home matches and last 2 at home saw them score 2 goals at least.
- Legia came out of the Champions league and straight into this 2 legger. They were last in the Europa league in 2015 when they were very poor.
- A slight element of the unknown here given Legia have only one recent Europa League match. I would look at 2-0 2-1 as my possibles today and dearly hope Legia score first as I would confidently lay them.
18:00 - APOEL v Athletic Bilbao - 2.1 Ath Bilbao
- I remember the first leg and APEOL's appalling away record. It did all look down and out at 3-1 until a very late lifeline made it 3-2 and very much game on.
- Will APOEL do a typical Cypriot trick? They only need a 1-0 so expect a strong attempted defensive display today. At home, APOEL have kept 2 consecutive clean sheets v the likes of Young Boys and Olympiakos.
- 0-0-1 scored by Bilbao away v the likes of Sassuolo, Genk and Rapid Vienna does not really augur well today does it?
- Ath Bilbao on the face of it come from the better league and are the better team on paper but I could see a 0-0 for a while here in an attempt for APOEL to nick a 1-0.
- 1-0/0-1 correct score potential?
20:05 - Shakhtar v Celta Vigo - 1.63 Shakhtar
- Shakhtar dominate Ukrainian football and the market expects them to dominate this second leg. So where do we stand?
- It is quite clear that Shakhtar are taking the Europa League seriously with a 100% win record in their last 10 matches. They lead 0-1 away at Celta so have that away goal to build a foundation on.
- We see 5 clean sheets in 6 home matches for Shakhtar and only Sevilla (who also take the Europa League seriously) managed to score and still not win.
- Celtas Europa League form is all over the place. DWDLDWL (where D=draw, W=Win and L=Loss). Inconsistency. And only 2 wins both v Panathanaikos.
- I would look at Shakhtar guaranteeing their Europa League future tonight with a possible win to nil. Celta need to score first and if doing so, I would have to lay them. Whenever Shakhtar have conceded in this competition of late, they have not lost.
20:05 - FC Copenhagen v Ludogorets - 1.79 FC Copenhagen
- All to play for after a first leg 1-2 lead for FC Copenhagen. Their first goal was an own goal so the match was even more tighter than the scoreline suggested.
- Ludogorets need a 0-1 to progress as an aggregate score draw is not good enough with Copenhagen's away goals.
- A 1-0 for FC Copenhagen should suffice.
- Ludogrets are fresh into this competition from an unsuccessful Champions League.
20:05 - Genk v Astra Giurgiu - 1.68 Genk
- Genk twice took the lead in the first leg only to be pegged back to an eventual 2-2.
- It is all to play for and the odds on quote for Genk looks a bit presumptuous given the first leg scoreline.
- So, tell me how to we gauge a Belgian side as against a Romanian side?
- If you want to play, then it is a case of faith in the betting market and Genk?
- Rather intriguingly, Astra have won their last 2 Europa League matches 1-2 away but Genk have 6 consecutive home wins in the Europa League, recent highlights including Athletico Bilbao and Sassuolo from major European leagues.
20:05 - Fiorentina v Mgladbach - 2.5 Fiorentina
- The betting market cannot split these 2 Europa League sides.
- Fiorentina take a slender 0-1 lead into this second leg.
- That is part of 5 wins and a 2-3 loss to PAOK in 2016 Europa League matches.
- 5-3-2 goals scored in their last 3 home matches.
- 3 consecutive defeats in the Europa League now for Mgladbach. 2 were 1-0.
- If Mgladbach are to lose, it will be a one-goal-in-it. Tonight though they require a 0-1 in order to regain parity with Fiorentina.
- Another match I'm afraid where I have no trading angles at all.
20:05 - Tottenham v Gent - 1.33 Tottenham
- Tottenham look to be the shortest priced Europa League team tonight.
- The market expects a narrow 1-0 deficit to be regained and added to this evening. Spurs will be eyeing the scoring of 2 goals I am sure in order to insure against an errant Gent goal.
- Faith in the market? There is little else for us to go on.
20:05 - Lyon v AZ Alkmaar - 1.38 Lyon
- Lyon were precisely these odds at the weekend when they played Dijon, went 1-2 down and eventually won 4-2. It was an excellent trading match and I could really do with a bit of the same tonight in the Europa League!
- With a 1-4 lead from the first leg, and AZ only scoring via a penalty, it is clear that the Dutch side are way out of their depth and only complacency will see Lyon not progress tonight.
- The concern with such a healthy lead replete with away goals is that Lyon need only avoid a 0-4 defeat in order to qualify. this does not put tonight's match into the must-win category.
- Lyon are clearly the better team of the two. Trust them?
20:05 - Sparta Prague v Rostov - 2.12 Sparta Prague
- I told you Rostov were up for it! A perfect first leg sees a 4-0 lead coming into this second leg. No concession of an away goal and a rock solid foundation for the Russians.
- Sparta Prague have 3 consecutive home wins, v Inter Milan (who to be frank wanted out of the Europa League as quick as possible!), Hapoel Beer Sheva and Southampton (weakened side).
- This is another puzzler as Rostov can afford a 3-0 loss and still go through!