The Europa League has enjoyed its winter break. Whether that’s entailed long cosy nights wrapped up in blankets in front of the fire, or tearing down Alpine ski slopes at breakneck speed, all you’re probably interested in is this week’s fixture list – and where you can make some money from your bets.
To that end, let’s start at the start. There’s one Tuesday fixture coming up this week, as Zenit St Petersburg travel to Turkey to face Fenerbahce. The Russian Premier League doesn’t get going again until early March, by which time this two-legged tie will be done and dusted. To prepare, Zenit have played six friendlies in the last few weeks, winning half of them.
They may be top of the league at present, but the inactivity can only be detrimental to Zenit’s chances, even if Fenerbahce are struggling down in 14th in the Turkish Super Lig. It’s been a chaotic, crisis-filled season for the Yellow Canaries, who are having their worst-ever domestic season. That’s throwing up some decent odds for the home win against an out-of-shape Zenit side, with Fenerbahce 6/4 to win the game.
Back to the usual Thursday slot, Premier League outfit Arsenal are off to Belarus to face BATE Borisov, who actually have some competition on the domestic front this season. As if they need any further distraction ahead of this tough assignment against the Gunners.
Unai Emery must surely view the Europa League as a major opportunity to get his team into next season’s Champions League, with Manchester United bang in form in the race for the top four. Arsenal are 4/9 to win on Thursday.
If you’re after longer odds but still want a clear favourite, Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen are evens to beat Russian newcomers FC Krasnodar, who were only founded in 2008. They’re certainly making waves with European campaigns already and second in their domestic league, but Bayer are sixth in Germany’s top flight and only missed out on this season’s Champions League on goal difference.
On to one of the ties of the round, as Serie A side Lazio host Sevilla, who were right in the La Liga title race until recently. Los Rojiblancos are stuttering and without a win in three, while Lazio have won their last three. They come into Thursday’s fixture on the back of successive 1-0 victories, one home and one away. The Roman club are 13/10 for the win here, and 13/2 to make it a hat-trick of 1-0 successes.
If you’re interested in the other Serie A sides, Inter are 8/13 to prevail at Rapid Vienna, while Napoli are 2/5 to beat FC Zurich on their own patch. Or if you follow the Premier League, you’re probably watching the developments at Stamford Bridge with wide-eyed wonder.
After wowing the Italian top flight and coming agonisingly close to scudetto success with Napoli, Maurizio Sarri’s time at Chelsea looks as though it’s quickly disintegrating into another Stamford Bridge soap opera.
The Blues had their pants taken down by Manchester City on Sunday, as they were hammered 6-0 at the Etihad. Chelsea are away at Malmo on Thursday, where anything but a win will bring further scrutiny on Sarri. Surely Chelsea will get a win, and they are 1/3 to do so. After shipping 10 goals in their last two away games, backing both teams to score along with an away win could be good value at 9/5.