UEFA Europa League Preview

Matchday 2 of the Europa League sees Man United in search for their first points in Group A.
Matchday 2 of the Europa League sees Man United in search for their first points in Group A.
The opening round of Europa League fixtures certainly threw up a few surprises. Both Manchester United as well as Inter Milan fell to defeat against unfancied opposition. There were also big wins for the likes of Southampton, Zenit and Sassuolo. Matchweek two sees yet another full set of fixtures rolling in, and as always, we’ve chosen the five biggest matches to preview for you. So without further delay, let’s get to it!

Thursday 29 September

2/1 Hapoel Be’er Sheva | Draw 43/20 | Southampton 27/20 (19:00)

Hapoel Be’er Sheva produced the result of matchweek one to defeat the once mighty Inter Milan at fortress San Siro. Having narrowly missed out on qualification to the Champions League, the Israeli outfit will be dead keen on making a splash in the Europa League. They did just that last week as they humbled the Italian giants thanks to second half goals from Miguel Vitor and Maor Buzaglo. In truth, they controlled the game and never let Frank de Boer’s men settle. More of the same will be required when they meet a Southampton side who are on a high after beating West Ham 3-0 in the league last week. Be’er Sheva’s lack of quality on the pitch will be more than made up for by their partisan support in the stands. Southampton will need to get the likes of Dusan Tadic, Sofiane Boufal and Nathan Redmond on the ball to control the game from the offset. If that happens, I feel that the Saints’ classy back four will be able to deal with the limited threat that Hapoel pose. Southampton are tipped to win here at 27/20.

6/10 Ajax | 29/10 | Standard Liege 9/2 (19:00)

Ajax got their Europa League campaign off to a solid start with a come-from-behind victory against Greek side, Panathinaikos. That win has been followed up by two league wins against Heracles and Zwolle. The Dutch giants are just starting to hit their stride after a stuttering start to their domestic campaign. Davy Klaassen is the man to look out for after claiming five goals and three assists from an advanced midfield position. Truth be told, Ajax are able to hurt lesser teams from just about anywhere. They’re a bit of a poor man’s Liverpool at the moment, patiently building up play before springing into action with some quick, decisive passing. They should have little trouble going up against the naïve Belgians. Standard Liege have had a similar season to that of their Thursday evening opposition. Having started the season with a few wobbles, the Belgians are starting to gain momentum. They got their Europa League campaign off to a solid enough start, earning a home draw against a strong Celta Vigo side. While Liege have been solid in recent weeks, it’s difficult seeing them compete away at Ajax. Take the Dutch giants to win at 6/10.

9/20 Shakhtar | 33/10 | Braga 11/2 (19:00)

Shakhtar come into this match in supreme form. They’re undefeated in nine games in the Ukrainian Premier League and opened their Europa League account with win away at Konyaspor. The men from Ukraine’s second city don’t rely on any one player to score their goals with 12 different players adding their names to various scoresheets in nine domestic league games. Their defence is pretty watertight too. In those nine games, they’ve only conceded five while racking up impressive goals themselves. Braga – following their dream run in the Europa League last season – will be looking to build on their 1-1 draw with Gent in the opening round of fixtures. Their domestic form has been solid enough. They find themselves in fourth place behind Benfica, Sporting and Porto although they’re not out of touch. Their two forwards – Pedro Santos and Wilson Eduardo – will be tasked with trying to break down one of the most miserly defences in Europe’s top leagues. I don’t think they’ll score against the Ukrainians, but to err on the side of caution, take Shakhtar on the straight win at 9/20.

1/6 Manchester United | 57/10 | Zorya 16/1 (21:05)

Manchester United stopped the rot with a convincing 4-1 victory over an out of sorts Leicester City this weekend. Jose Mourinho finally grew a pair and decided it was best if Wayne Rooney started from the bench. The decision allowed Paul Pogba the freedom of the park as Ander Herrera sat in a deeper-lying position. The mercurial Frenchman took the game by the scruff of the neck and dictated the tempo beautifully and capped it all off with a bullet of a header for his first Premier League goal on his return. If United line up in the same way, they’ll wipe the floor with Zorya. Although Zorya sit second in the Ukrainian Premier League, they can’t hold a candle to the current leaders, Shakhtar. They’ll come up against a Manchester United side who are dead keen on making up for their failures against Feyenoord in the first round of matches. That said, Fenerbahce did require a second half injury time goal to take a point off of the dogged Eastern Europeans. United will be too strong here and are tipped on the (-1) Handicap at 9/20.

21/20 Fenerbahce | 23/10 | Feyenoord 51/20 (21:05)

The final match of our preview takes us to the maelstrom that is Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium where Fenerbahce go toe to toe with Feyenoord. The Turkish giants have – by their usual high standards – endured a torrid start to the 2016/17 season. Seventh on the Turkish Süper Lig standings - they’re enduring their worst start to a domestic campaign in 10 years. On top of this, they needed a desperately late equaliser to claim a point against Ukrainian minnows Zorya in the first round of Europa League matches. Massive pressure on the Turks going into this game. Feyenoord on the other hand have started the season like they mean to go on. Seven wins in as many games in the league as well as a magnificent 1-0 against Manchester United in the Europa League has their fans dreaming of glory. The men from Rotterdam look unstoppable at the minute smashing in 21 goals in the league whilst only conceding two domestically. Turkey is a difficult place to get a result, and I’m always weary of backing teams playing away in the Eastern European country. As such, I’ll be adding Feyenoord on the Double Chance at 15/20 to my multiples for the week.

QUINTUPLE @ 13/1
Southampton Win 27/20
Ajax Win 6/10
Shakhtar Win 9/20
Manchester United (-1) Handicap 9/20
Feyenoord Double Chance 15/2

Written by Jason Dewey