Our week of European action concludes with the Europa league. We are now getting to the juncture where we have identified what sides are taking the competition more seriously than others which makes predicting where those goals are going to land much easier.
Take a look at our Goals Galore treble below, all games in which we think the net will bulge!
Slovan Liberec v Freiburg – 6.00pm Thursday – Betfred 8/11
Group H is where we start as second placed Liberec can guarantee their progression into the knockout stages by beating German outfit Freiburg who need a win to keep their Europa adventure alive. Liberec have yet to lose in the competition and are three points ahead of the visitors who have actually yet to win a game. Intriguingly, both teams have registered three draws each from their four games. 2-2 anyone?
Liberec will want a positive result on Thursday to ensure qualification, they have picked up some important results including in the last gameweek where they went to Seville and took a point from the group favourites, in a 1-1 draw. They have also beaten Estoril at home 2-1 and in the reverse tie in Germany against Freiburg, the sides finished 2-2 with both sides receiving red cards- so expect a bit of a fiery affair. Liberec have scored at least a goal in every tie in Europe this season and I am banking on them finding the net on Thursday.
This is make or break for Freiburg, victory in the Czech Republic will leave them neck and neck with Liberec with everything going down to the last game. Freiburg have struggled so far this season in both league and cup, currently sitting in a lowly 17th place in the Bundesliga and haven’t taken their European adventure as seriously as the could have. This is the last chance saloon and will be well aware of the consequences of defeat, going into the game with this attitude may see them bringing back a win and I can see this being quite an open tie.
Wigan Athletic v Zulte Waregem – 8.05pm Thursday – Betfred 5/6
Despite relegation from the Premier League last season, resulting in an extra eight league games in this campaign you would forgive Wigan if they were to take a backseat in Europe as they attempt to bounce back to the top division, however they have given a good account of themselves on the continent. They are fighting for second place and their competition arrives on Thursday night in the way of Belgium side Zulte Waregem.
Wigan haven’t had the greatest of starts in the league and remain midtable, getting back to the Premier League may have to wait another season. Europe has been a nice distraction for the fans and even more so if they can bag a big name in the knockout stages but first they need to guarantee second place. Victory at the DW Stadium will all but do that and we may well be in for quite a tasty game. At home they have already played league leaders Rubin Kazan, earning a 1-1 draw and beat Slovenian outfit Maribor 3-1 so we know they have the firepower to score a few. The Lactics also welcome back Grant Holt, Jordi Gomez and James McArthur and I am predicting a win for them on Thursday.
At this stage of the tournament teams are fighting to save themselves from elimination and Zulte Waregem are doing just that here against Wigan. They need a win in England as they face a stern test in their final game verses Rubin Kazan where they are expected to lose. The Belgium side came away with a 1-0 win against Maribor last time out and will be confident of replicating that here. Waregem are undefeated in six games in all formats having scored in each, I expect them to do so again here.
APOEL Nicosia v Maccabi Tel-Aviv – 8.05pm Thursday – Betfred 4/5
We finish off with a glamour tie. Ok, I am possibly exaggerating but it still should be an open game in Cyprus as APOEL have home advantage over Maccabi Tel Aviv. That is as far as the advantage goes though with the Israeli side boasting a three point lead over third placed APOEL, who need a victory or they’re likely to exit the competition at this early stage.
APOEL know what they need to do and have the credentials to win against this strong Tel-Aviv side. APOEL are far more confident on the attack than they are at defending leads, which will play into our hands here at Goals Galore. They proved this in their last Europa tie at home to Bordeaux where they won 2-1 they also lost the same tie in France 2-1 and even though I can see them scoring here I cant see them keeping a clean sheet.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv are favourites to make the knockout stages along with Frankfurt who have almost sealed their place. However, it could go horribly wrong here in Cyprus for them if they fail to pick up at least a draw. Signs are good for us here with their last five games seeing both teams score including a massive 4-2 victory against group leaders Frankfurt only three weeks ago. I have this one down as a score draw!