UEFA Europa League Preview

After what seems like an eternity, the Europa League makes a welcome return to our television screens. With the prospect of more Thursday night football, comes the opportunity to make a bit of extra cash. The tie of the round will see Borussia Dortmund battle it out against Porto. Other noteworthy fixtures will see Fiorentina take on Tottenham Hotspur while Liverpool go head to head with Augsburg.

Thursday 18 February

4/10 Borussia Dortmund | Draw 34/10 | FC Porto 6/1 (20:00) 

Our first port of call in this week’s preview is the Westfalenstadion where Borussia Dortmund will take on FC Porto. Both sides head into this game off the back of victories in their last domestic league matches. Dortmund defeated Hannover 1-0 while Porto claimed a 2-1 victory over their fiercest rivals Benfica. The Portuguese giants have one of the best defences in the Primeira Liga, conceding 16 goals in 31 matches. One feels that they will have their hands full come Thursday evening if they’re going to keep the wealth of attacking talent within Dortmund’s ranks at bay. Any three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Rues, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Castro Giovani could make up Dortmund’s forward line while the midfield trio of Ikay Gundogan, Matthias Ginter and Shinji Kagawa will be looking to pull the strings from deeper positions. Porto possess their own wealth of attacking talent, however, with Yacine Brahimi and Vincent Aboubakar both more than capable up front for the Portuguese giants. That being said, I do expect Iker Casillas to be the busier of the two goalkeepers when the sides meet. Porto are a much better side than these odds suggest and there is massive value on offer here. Back Porto on the Double Chance at 31/20.

13/10 Fiorentina | 22/10 | Tottenham 21/10 (20:00)

Fiorentina against Tottenham Hotspur was the other match that caught my eye as soon as the fixtures were announced in December last year. Both sides have done incredibly well in their respective domestic leagues. Spurs, however, are a cut above. They’ve won their last six matches in all competitions scoring 15 goals and conceding just three. Mauricio Pochettino has quietly gone about putting together one of the most balanced squads in European football. They’re miserly in defence and devastating in front of goal, and in Hugo Lloris, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the minute.  Fiorentina aren’t without world class talent themselves. Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic are two of Serie A’s most deadly finishers with 20 goals between them this term. The Viola come into this match fresh off a 2-1 triumph over Inter Milan this weekend in which Khouma Babacar and Borja Valero both found the back of the net. Despite being at home, I don’t really think that Fiorentina have enough to cope with a Tottenham outfit who are sweeping aside all who stand before them at the moment. Back the away side at wonderfully generous odds of 21/10.

9/2 Midtjylland | 11/4 | Manchester United 6/10 (20:00)

Midtjyland will take on the once mighty Manchester United. Louis van Gaal’s men head into this match as heavy favourites, and rightly so. Their Jutland opposition for the week currently sit third in the Danish Superliga behind Aalborg and Kobenhavn. United come into this game off the back of a resounding 2-1 loss to Sunderland over the weekend as the pressure mounts on van Gaal. The Red Devils will use this competition as a springboard into the Champions League if they continue to fall behind in the race for fourth place in the Premier League. They’ll likely field a strong line-up against the Danes and try and put the tie to bed in the first leg. I simply can’t see Midtjylland getting anything out of this game. Back United at 6/10.

24/10 Augsburg | 23/10 | Liverpool 11/10 (22:05)

The last thing Augsburg need right now is a Europa League tie against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side. The Bundesliga outfit are flirting with relegation this season, and while this tie will provide their fans with a bit of respite from their domestic woes, Markus Weinzierl would probably want his charges to focus solely on their top flight status. Both teams come into this game in some pretty woeful form, Augsburg haven’t won since the Bundesliga returned to action following their winter break while Liverpool’s only win in their last six came last time out against a wretched Aston Villa side. Liverpool do welcome back a number of their recently crocked stars. Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi could all start against the Germans on Thursday evening. If these three get a run, they could run riot against the wounded Germans. The Reds will be buzzing following their 6-0 win at the weekend and look good value for the win at 11/10.

Written by Jason Dewey

Europa Picks

FC Porto WIN/DRAW 31/20
Tottenham WIN 21/10
Man United WIN 6/10
Liverpool WIN 11/10