UEFA Europa League Expert Tips 2018/19

Betfair Soccer Experts, Football Form Labs are back to give their Europa League Predictions for the 2018/19 tournament. They will preview major games in each stage of the tournament and give their expert tips along the way.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Benfica

Friday 19 April, 5:00am

With Chelsea and Valencia having pretty much guaranteed their semi-final berths this is the most exciting of the Europa League semi-final second legs. Obite N’Dicka’s 20th-minute red card was the defining moment of the first leg as teenage sensation Joao Felix converted the resulting penalty. Felix then went on to score another two goals to complete his hat-trick but a 72nd minute goal from Pacienda Goncalo to make it 4-2 did enough to sew doubts into the minds of Benfica fans.

Eintracht Frankfurt came into the first leg in a rich vein of form having won seven of eight unbeaten matches in all competitions including a 1-0 victory at the San Siro in the Last 32 however they suffered another setback at the weekend as they went down 3-1 at home to Augsburg. That defeat has made the race for the fourth Champions League spot in German all the more exciting as Frankfurt now lead Gladbach in fifth by just a single point with five games to play.

German sides have won 13 of 21 matches in this competition hosting Portuguese opposition while Benfica have lost six of their 10 away European matches over the last two seasons. Both of Frankfurt’s recent defeats came when they were reduced to 10-men. If they can keep their discipline they should be good enough to win the game though not necessarily progress.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Eintracht Frankfurt to win at 1.86

Napoli v Arsenal

Friday 19 April, 5:00am

The most outcome of the first leg was that just two goals were scored as each team had countless clear cut chances. Both sides were wasteful up top and the Gunners were very nervous in the final quarter of the match but a 2-0 lead should be enough to see them through to a semis versus likely opponents Valencia even withstanding their terrible away record.

Arsenal limped to their first away Premier League clean sheet of the season on Monday as they were aided by a fortunate early penalty and a debatable red card. That was just their second win in 11 on the road and again they looked nervy. After winning their three away Group Stage matches, Arsenal lost at both at FC Bate and Rennes in the Last 32 and Last 16 respectively and this represents a much tougher test than either of those.

Napoli have won four of five undefeated home matches in Europe this term which includes beating Liverpool and drawing with PSG in their Champions League ‘Group of Death’. Under Carlo Ancelotti, the hosts look set to finish in second place in Serie A. With six games to go they are 17 points behind the formidable Juve but they are seven clear of Inter in third. At home, they’ve won 11 of 16 matches in the league under the Italian with their sole defeat against Juve. Just six of their victories have been by two clear goals though, so qualification is very much an uphill task.

We can certainly expect home goals in this clash as Napoli have netted in 11 on the bounce at home in Europe while Arsenal have lost 10 of their last 16 away knockout stage fixtures.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Napoli Win $1.77

Arsenal v Napoli

Friday 12 April, 5:00am

Arsenal’s lacklustre performance at Everton saw them fall to yet another defeat on the road, leaving them just W2-D3-L7 since the start of December as they were only able to vanquish Blackpool and Huddersfield. However, back at the Emirates they’re a completely different force, winning 13 of 15 games over this same period including victories over the likes of Spurs, Chelsea and Man Utd.

Napoli have prepared for this clash with a disappointing week of their own, first losing on the road at relegation-threatened Empoli before being held to a stalemate hosting 10-man Genoa. However, they’re usually very competent on their own patch where they hold a long-established record of success, but at the same time sharing a similar story to the Gunners in that their away form lets them down.

The visitors are a mere W4-D3-L5 over their past 12 road trips, and although they’ve hardly produced a catalogue of calamities, they’ve generally fallen to defeat at the better sides they’ve encountered as Liverpool, Inter, Milan and Salzburg all got the better of them. Roma were swept aside 4-1, but Claudio Ranieri has been unable to reshape their fortunes after the Giallorossi suffered 7-1 and 3-0 defeats to Fiorentina and bitter rivals Lazio respectively under predecessor Eusebio Di Francesco.

Unai Emery has personally overseen five wins form six encounters with Italian sides during his managerial career, including all four in this competition, while Arsenal themselves had little difficulty in dispatching AC Milan by a 5-1 aggregate scoreline in last seasons’ knockout rounds. The Italians haven’t truly taken to the Europa League and have produced just three semi-finalists over the past decade, while when travelling to face English teams, they’ve fared a poor W3-D5-L10 in second-tier European tournaments since 2001/02.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Arsenal to win at 2.46

Slavia Prague v Chelsea

Friday 12 April, 5:00am

Slavia Prague ended up on the right side of a goal bonanza in the previous round as they eventually sneaked through with six goals to Sevilla’s five over two legs plus extra-time (the fans being treated to a goal every 19 minutes on average). It’s not as though Chelsea have encountered many problems in finding the net in the Europa League either, winning nine of 10 unbeaten games as they’ve netted 19 times across the last six, including eight against Dynamo Kiev in the previous round.

Maurizio Sarri has heavily rotated his line-ups for clashes in Europe and that appears unlikely to change unless the Blues are drawn with one of the sides boasting a realistic chance of lifting the trophy. Having played West Ham on Monday and with an important game away at Liverpool this weekend, there’s little reason to think he won’t do the same here and that will encourage Slavia Prague that they can be competitive here.

Indeed, Chelsea are only W7-D2-L7 from their last 15 on the road in all competitions, keeping just two clean sheets as even the likes of MOL Vidi and BATE Borisov in this tournament, as well as bottom-three sides Fulham and Cardiff domestically managed to register against them. 27 of 36 Europa League quarter-final first legs have seen both teams find the net since 2009/10, and though Chelsea ought to come away with the points, their Czech hosts will fancy themselves to at least make it onto the scoreboard.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Both teams to score at 1.91

Dynamo Kiev v Chelsea

Friday 15th March, 4.55am AEDT

Chelsea had little difficulty during the first leg as they swatted their Ukrainian visitors aside by a comfortable 3-0 scoreline and the result never appeared in doubt. However, the Blues are much more formidable back at Stamford Bridge and keep far less clean sheets on the road, only once managing to do so in 12 trips across all competitions as they’ve even conceded at Hungarian outfit MOL Vidi and Swedish side Malmo in this tournament.

Maurizio Sarri isn’t usually big on rotation just as he wasn’t at Napoli, but he’s shown willingness to shuffle the deck in the Europa League on occasion and with a difficult trip to Goodison Park to face Everton at the weekend, his hand is somewhat forced with the race for the top four domestically seriously heating up. However, making numerous changes to the starting line-up could lead to a more disjointed performance and so there’s reason to think Dynamo Kiev can nab a consolation effort, especially with the return from suspension of playmaker Benjamin Verbic.

The hosts thumped rivals Arsenal Kiev 4-0 on Sunday in their local derby, but while not too much should be read into their attacking prowess from that clash given their opponents are rooted to the bottom of the league standings, they still netted in both encounters versus Olympiakos and Rennes. Aside from their first leg encounter with Chelsea, those are by far the best teams they’ve faced in Europe this term, with the French outfit demonstrating their quality against Arsenal last week.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Both teams to score at 1.83

Arsenal v Rennes

Friday 15th March, 7.00am AEDT

The Gunners have been here before having fallen on the road in the first leg during the previous round against BATE Borisov, and though Rennes offer a more challenging assignment, Unai Emery has past form for coming back in the Europa League. That tussle with the Belarusian outfit was the sixth time the Spaniard has lost the first leg of a knockout tie in the Europa League, with his team progressing to the next round on five occasions as the only exception came when his Valencia team were up against Atletico Madrid in 2011/12.

Arsenal can also take further confidence by the home and away records of themselves and their French counterparts. Rennes are also a side that have been great on home turf but poor on the road, going W7-D4-L8 across all competitions this term with five of those victories coming against bottom-half teams Monaco, Caen and Nantes, as well as fourth-tier outfit Saint-Pryve Saint-Hilaire and Czech side Jablonec.

Meanwhile, the Gunners are a much better W18-D3-L3 at the Emirates this season as the defeats came against the Manchester duo and Spurs, and with just one goal conceded in their last four there, hold a strong possibility of squeaking though. Indeed, Arsenal have won eight of their last nine home fixtures, with the exception against Man Utd, with the score big enough here to take them through to the next round in six of these while another would take it to extra time.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Arsenal to Qualify

Frankfurt v Inter Milan

Friday 8th March, 4.55am AEDT

Inter Milan overcame a poor Rapid Vienna outfit to make it through to the Last 16 but they face a much sterner test this time around. Adi Hutter and Frankfurt have prioritised this competition, winning seven of eight unbeaten matches to date.

The exception was a 2-2 draw away in the first leg of the previous round at Champions League group participants Shakhtar Donetsk, though the Germans went on to thrash the much-fancied Ukrainians 4-1 at home in the return leg. What’s more, they progressed with a 100% record form a group that featured last year’s runners-up Marseille and Inters’ fellow Serie A rivals Lazio.

Inter warmed up for this with a 2-1 defeat at Cagliari and they’ve struggled for goals on the road recently, which isn’t helped by the continued absence of the banished Mauro Icardi. Indeed, they’ve netted no more than one strike in nine of their last 11 in all competitions, only holding a W3-D3-L5 over this period.

This is a potential issue against the tournament’s leading scorers, whilst Frankfurt are also a very strong team here at the Commerzbank-Arena. They’ve won 10 of their last 14 in all competitions, with two of the exceptions against Dortmund and Bayern, both of whom are a cut above Inter.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Frankfurt to Win at 2.33

Zenit v Villareal

Friday 8th March, 4.55am AEDT

It’s been a dreadful season for Villarreal, who face a real battle to retain their La Liga status and as such the Europa League has to be low on their list of priorities – especially with upcoming fixtures against bottom-six outfits Levante, Rayo Vallecano and Celta Vigo within their next three fixtures domestically (the latter two are very much direct rivals for the drop).

Spanish sides may have dominated both of UEFA’s flagship tournaments in recent years, but trips to Russia have proven problematic as excluding the superb trio of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico, they’ve won just four of 17 matches when including the playoffs. That record has been particularly bad in the last few seasons as they’re only W2-D2-L5 away in Russia since 2014/15.

Zenit can point to a fantastic record at home in Europe, winning 12 of 13 unbeaten games in St. Petersburg since 2016/17 from the group stages onwards.

By contrast, Villarreal have managed just a solitary victory in 15 games on their travels across all competitions since the start of October (W1-D8-L6), losing three of the past five, and it’s hardly as though they were impressive in the group stages either.

They only acquired 10 points from clashes with Rapid Vienna, Rangers and Spartak Moscow, which isn’t exactly the strongest of groups, and so Zenit can seize on this opportunity to put one foot into the quarter-finals.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Zenit to Win at 2.08

Arsenal v BATE Borisov

Friday 22nd Febuary, 4.55am AEDT

Arsenal’s first leg performance left a lot to be desired and back at the Emirates this should prove a totally different game. A better and bigger pitch will no doubt help the Gunners, who have won 14 of 20 matches there this term as only City, Spurs and United could get the better of them. Meanwhile, the stalemates with Liverpool, Sporting CP and Wolves are hardly terrible results to fray the nerves ahead of this encounter, and so the 6-0 win Arsenal produced in this fixture last term is more likely than a repeat 1-0 defeat from the first leg.

Indeed, when teams from the Big Five leagues have lost the first leg of a European knockout match away to a non-Big Five side by just the single strike, they’ve typically bucked up their ideas for the second leg back at home. They’ve produced 14 wins from 18 such games since 2011/12, with half of these victories coming by at least three clear goals, while they’ve netted as many as four times in seven of these too.

Unai Emery may be without Alexandre Lacazette, but he still has plenty of other attacking options and his side should be playing on the front foot here with a deficit to overturn. Given a top-four position looks difficult to achieve with United improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he’ll want to keep open another avenue for Champions League qualification in a tournament that he’s won three times already.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Arsenal -2.5 Asian Handicap at 2.23

Sevilla v Lazio

 Thursday 21st Febuary, 4.00am AEDT

Sevilla have serious pedigree in this tournament having won it in three of the past five seasons. After overcoming some poor form ahead of the first leg to take an away goal back to Spain, they should have the necessary experience to complete the job, especially as their home form is remarkably stronger.

In fact, despite having gone just W3-D1-L6 over their past 10 fixtures overall, on home turf alone they’ve been the model of consistency with 12 wins from 15 games stretching all the way back into September. This spell has included victories over the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, while their European outings have highlighted this theme. Their three group stage matches at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan yielded a combined score of 14-1 in their favour, while they suffered defeats in two of three road trips, as their only success came over an Akhisarspor side that were simply out of their depth.

Lazio lost again at the weekend as they threw away a lead against Genoa, leaving them W2-D1-L4 over their past seven fixtures, with both victories coming over bottom-six sides Empoli and Frosinone. They’ve lost five of their last seven on the road in Europe, which doesn’t bode well given that Italian teams have struggled when travelling to face Spanish opposition in this competition in recent times.

Since 2009/10, they’ve lost nine of 11 encounters, while Simone Inzaghi is further hampered in his preparations by a growing injury list concentrating on his midfield and defensive options.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Sevilla Win at $1.81

Sevilla v Krasnodar

Friday 14th December

Sevilla have made this encounter a virtual must win if they’re to make the knockout stages., so Pablo Machin will hope to draw on their imperious recent record at home. They’ve won eight on the bounce here in all competitions, while in Europe alone, they’ve won their five matches this term by an aggregate scoreline of 19-1. Krasnodar may be unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions now, but eight of those came at home with the majority of them versus weaker Russian sides, while on the road they have won only one of their last four as they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet, losing to both Zenit domestically and Standard Liege in this competition. Indeed, those two defeats were only narrow 2-1 defeats, but Sevilla take no prisoners at home, with 5-1 and 6-0 victories over Standard Liege and Akhisarspor respectively in the group stages.

The visitors may have to deal without veteran striker Ari yet again too, and without him they have come up short in their last two – stalemates against Russian mid-table side Rostov and bottom-three outfit Ufa. He is their top scorer in this competition and joint top scorer in the league, so they’ll certainly miss him should he not be fit. Furthermore, Russian sides have lost 26 of their 37 visits to La Liga teams since 1998 in European competition, so all things point towards the hosts. Given a victory by a margin of two goals or more will be enough for Sevilla to secure top spot, we’re happy to back them on the handicap.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Sevilla -1.5 Asian Handicap at 2.0

Rapid Vienna v Rangers

Friday 14th December

Group G is incredibly tight with just two points separating first from fourth, though with leaders Villarreal hosting dead last Spartak Moscow, Rangers realistically need a win and have to go for it. They’ve certainly done that on their travels in Europe as they drew 2-2 at Villarreal and lost 4-3 at Spartak Moscow – despite having led three times against the Russians – and with none of these goals scored by Alfredo Morelos, Steven Gerrard can laugh of accusations that his side are reliant on the ill-disciplined Colombian striker.

The reverse of this fixture also saw four goals as Rangers ran out 3-1 winners at Ibrox. Meanwhile, seven of Rapid Vienna’s nine European outings this term (including play-offs) have seen at least three strikes, as four of these saw a minimum of four goals. Indeed, the two clashes with top dogs Villarreal were the only occasions where the Austrians failed to register on the scoreboard. However, as Rangers have responded well in Europe this term when the chips are down, we’d be bullish about their chances of delivering a goal or two as well. Given the group standings, no matter what happens one team or the other will need to go for it and so goals should be firmly on the agenda.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Over 2.5 Goals at 1.74

Vorskla Poltava v Arsenal

Friday 30th November, 4.55am AEDT

Arsenal have already qualified form Group E and victory here would guarantee them top spot. Unai Emery hasn’t been afraid to play his best players in this competition and he may be forced to start Pierre Emerick Aubameyang with Danny Welbeck out for the season and Alexandre Lacazette not yet fully fit.

This only makes the case for the Gunners stronger and they should have no problem breezing past inferior opposition.

Vorskla Poltava have lost three of their four group stage matches, including both home encounters to Qarabag and Sporting. In fact, they’ve lost five of their last six on home turf in all competitions as they failed to score in four of these, while they’ve lost their last three across all venues without finding the net.

It seems unlikely they’ll be able to cause an upset as the Gunners have only failed to find the net once in their last 18 under Emery, and if they get ahead it’s difficult to see a way back for the Ukrainians.

We wouldn’t put anyone off Arsenal/Under 2.5 Goals with the likelihood they’ll take their foot off the gas with the North London derby on Sunday, but they look excellent value for the straight win. Indeed, they’ve won four of five away games in the Europa League group stage since the start of last season.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Arsenal to Win at $1.84

Rangers v Villarreal

Friday 30th November, 7.00am AEDT

It’s very tight in Group G with all four teams within two points of each other as everyone has a chance of qualifying for the Last 32. No side has won more than once, but Villarreal are the only team not to lose with three draws and a win.

However, the Yellow Submarine aren’t enjoying the best of seasons, winning just four of 18 matches in all competitions as they’re down in 16th in La Liga. Furthermore, while Javier Calleja doesn’t change the whole starting XI, he uses the Europe League as an opportunity to rotate his squad with the main focus on improving their league stature.

They’ve drawn both of their away matches at Spartak Moscow and Rapid Vienna, meaning they’ve won just five of 17 away matches in this competition since 2015/16. This is despite reaching the semi’s in 2015/16 where they still only triumphed in two of seven road games that year.

Rangers managed an impressive 2-2 in the reverse fixture on matchday one and were unlucky to go down 4-3 in Moscow most recently. However, they drew with the Russian outfit back at Ibrox and convincingly beat Rapid Vienna as they still remain unbeaten at home under Steven Gerrard, winning 11 of 14.

The Liverpool legend is taking this competition more seriously than his counterpart and they appear excellent value on the handicap.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Rangers +0.25 Asian Handicap at 2.12

Arsenal v Sporting

Friday 9th November, 7.00am AEDT

The Gunners confirmed themselves as credible top-four contenders with a stalemate hosting Liverpool at the Emirates, preserving their unbeaten streak which now stretches to 14 matches. That includes victories by two-goal margins in six of eight home games, as well as racking up twice as many goals as anyone else in Group E to date.

Sporting had to be patient as they had to wait until the second half to break the deadlock hosting Qarabag, before requiring two late goals to beat Vorskla Poltava 2-1, so they have plenty of convincing to do and it’s hard to see a way back for them if they concede first at the Emirates.

Arsenal will be further encouraged by a shoddy record in recent years of Portuguese teams travelling to England. Sporting, Porto and Benfica have trailed at both half-time and full-time in four of five winless road games to a combination of Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester and Man Utd since 2014/15. Even that sole exception came under mitigating circumstances, as Liverpool rested a couple of players having won the first leg 5-0 in Porto during last seasons’ run to the final.

Sporting haven’t had the best of times on the road domestically either, losing three of five winless away matches against Porto or Benfica since 2016/17. Meanwhile, they’ve lost three of their last six across all competitions ahead of this clash – including a 4-2 defeat away at bottom-half outfit Portimonense.

In fact, they’ve conceded first in four of their last five on their travels, including their sole road trip in the Europa League to date, while the exception came in the Taca de Portugal against third-tier outfit Loures.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Arsenal/Arsenal HT/FT at $1.91

Lazio v Marseille

Friday 9th October, 4.55am AEDT

It’s not been a stellar campaign for Marseille as they sit down in 6th domestically, with their 19 points just 53% of the total available as PSG have nearly doubled that tally already. They’re just W2-D1-L4 on their travels this season, while they’ve lost their last three home or away as they’ve shipped eight goals and netted just once.

One of those was a 3-1 defeat in the reverse fixture as these two met a couple of weeks ago, leaving Rudi Garcia’s team with four defeats from their last five in Europe as they’ve conceded 12 times. Even including the qualifiers, Marseille are just W1-D4-L5 on their travels in Europe since the start of last season, with the stalemates coming over limited outfits Oostende, Domzale, Konyaspor and Apollon Limassol.

Lazio aren’t great on the road in Europe, evening losing half of their matches since the start of last season, but on home turf they excel, going W10-D2-L1 since 2015/16. They netted at least three times in six of those victories, while they’ve scored 13 goals across the last four since the knockout rounds commenced last term.

The hosts have won nine of 12 matches across all competitions since a pair of early season defeats to Napoli and Juve, including five of six at the Stadio Olimpico – with the exception against a an impressive Inter. With that in mind, Simone Inzaghi’s men are all set to secure qualification and make it a straight battle between themselves and Eintracht Frankfurt for top spot, while we wouldn’t put anyone off a repeat of the 3-1 these two played out last time.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Lazio to win at $1.79

 BACK – Lazio 3-1 correct score $12.5

AC Milan v Real Betis

Friday 26th October, 3.55am AEST

AC Milan won 1-0 at Luxembourg minnows Dudelange in their Group F opener and they can take a firm grip of the pool with another three points here.  Since losing 3-2 at Napoli, Milan are unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions with four wins.

Olympiakos will be without Konstantinos Tsimikos after the defender saw red in their opening 0-0 stalemate against Betis.  The Greeks are regular features in European competitions. They’ve played in either of the Champions League or Europa League in each of the last eight seasons but they typically find life very tough on the road. Last season they lost all three of their away matches and since 2011/12 they’ve lost 13/21 in the Group Stage including both of their games in Italy.

Last season, AC Milan won five of their seven home matches in Europe before losing to Arsenal in the Last 16 of the Europa League. The hosts aren’t the force they used to be but they continue to prove their dominance again lesser opposition.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – AC Milan Win $2.00

Sporting CP v Arsenal

Friday 26th October, 3.55am AEST

Arsenal stretched their winning streak to 10 matches with victory over Leicester on Monday night but while they’ve always been strong in the comforts of the Emirates, their away victories were against three of the current bottom-four of the Premier League and the woeful Qarabag.

They’ll be severely tested travelling to a Sporting side whose only defeat on home soil in all competitions since the start of last term was to Barcelona in last year’s Champions League group stages.

The Portuguese outfit only lost to the Catalans 1-0 while they also held Juventus 1-1 and beat Olympiakos in their other home group matches. Furthermore, they went on to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League where they even beat Atletico but were unable to turnaround the 2-0 deficit from the away leg.

The Gunners have won five of their eight away matches in the Europa League since the start of last season, but four of those were against minnows Qarabag, Ostersunds, Red Star and FC Bate, while they’ve drawn at CSKA an lost at Atletico and FC Koln in this time.

Additionally, the ‘Big Six’ from the Premier League are a rather average W9-D5-L9 when travelling to face Sporting, Benfica or Porto since 2003/04, so Sporting look excellent value +0.25 on the Asian Handicap.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Sporting +0.25 Asian Handicap at 2.19

AC Milan v Olympiakos

Friday 5th October, 2.55am AEST

AC Milan won 1-0 at Luxembourg minnows Dudelange in their Group F opener and they can take a firm grip of the pool with another three points here.  Since losing 3-2 at Napoli, Milan are unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions with four wins.

Olympiakos will be without Konstantinos Tsimikos after the defender saw red in their opening 0-0 stalemate against Betis.  The Greeks are regular features in European competitions. They’ve played in either of the Champions League or Europa League in each of the last eight seasons but they typically find life very tough on the road. Last season they lost all three of their away matches and since 2011/12 they’ve lost 13/21 in the Group Stage including both of their games in Italy.

Last season, AC Milan won five of their seven home matches in Europe before losing to Arsenal in the Last 16 of the Europa League. The hosts aren’t the force they used to be but they continue to prove their dominance again lesser opposition.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – AC Milan Win $1.51

Spartak Moscow v Villarreal

Friday 5th October, 5.00am AEST

This match is one of the most evenly rated by the odds-makers in this slate of games but we think the edge lies with the visitors.

Spartak Moscow have won just two of their last 10 home matches in Europe including losing four of their last nine. In attempting to qualify for the Champions League proper they went down 3-2 on aggregate to PAOK as they failed to net at home when needing to score after losing the first leg. In their opener against Rapid Vienna, the Russians lost 2-0.

Villarreal have much better European pedigree. They’ve avoided defeat in the seven of their last eight on the road with three wins from their last five. Crucially, they’ve netted in eight of the games and one goal may well be enough to secure all three points in the Russian capital.

Spanish sides have won six of their last 10 trips to Russia in this competition and the Yellow Submarine have what it takes to make it seven in 11.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Villarreal Win $2.60

PAOK Salonika v Chelsea

Friday 21st September, 2.55am AEST

Chelsea have surprised most pundits with their excellent start in the league and they should have no problems starting their European campaign off with victory here – where they look a generous price to do so. PAOK have won only one of their last nine Europa League home games, failing to score in six of these, though they did prove tough to break down as five of these saw fewer than two goals whilst they trailed at the break in just two of these.

This is Chelsea’s first ever Europa League group stage campaign but if we exclude teams we have ranked in Europe’s top 20 then they’ve won seven of their last 11 European away games, keeping a clean sheet in seven of these matches.  Indeed, 13 of Chelsea’s last 16 European away victories have been without conceding and so whilst Chelsea look fair value in the match outcome market, we’re going to boost that price by backing Sarri’s men to win without conceding.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Chelsea Win to Nil at $3.2

Arsenal v Vorskla Poltava

Friday 21st September, 5.00am AEST

Excluding when Atletico visited in the semi-finals, Arsenal made light work of the majority of their opponents at the Emirates in this competition last term, winning four of their first six home games by more than one goal. They kept only two clean sheets in their seven home games and they’ve struggled defensively under Emery too as they’re still searching for their first clean sheet in the league.

That’ll give Ukrainian outfit Vorskla some encouragement as they compete in the Europa League group stages for only the second time and the first since 2011/12. They picked up only two points from their six games then and after a slow start domestically, we don’t expect them to cause the Gunners many problems. They’ve failed to score in three of their five away games in the Ukrainian Premier League and so this looks like an excellent opportunity for Emery’s men to record their first clean sheet of the season.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Arsenal Win to Nil at $1.66

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