This season’s Europa League competition is down to just 16 teams and, with the winner gaining automatic qualification to the 2016/17 Champions League, they’ll all be hoping for big performances in Thursday’s first leg matches.
We’ve picked three matches where we think both teams will find the target. At odds of 11/2, it has to be worth a midweek punt.
FC Basel v Sevilla. 6PM
St-Jakob Park will play host to the Europa League final on May 18th and Urs Fischer’s Basel will be desperate to be there in front of their own supporters. However, the Swiss side couldn’t have asked for a more difficult last 16 opponent as they prepare to take on La Liga giants Sevilla.
Unai Emery’s visitors have lifted the trophy in each of the past two seasons and will be firmly expected to reach another quarter-final over two legs. A couple of away goals here would certainly put them in the driving seat, and the likes of Fernando Llorente and Kevin Gameiro should give the Spaniards a fantastic opportunity.
Sevilla should be prepared for a tough battle, though. Basel have enjoyed some big scalps over the past few years, and will be looking to the experienced Marc Janko for further inspiration on Thursday. The hosts have scored in all eight Europa League matches this term, and they will be optimistic about extending that sequence.
Basel’s last four competitive matches have ended in BTTS winners. We don’t see any reason to think that trend will end here.
BTTS Yes @ 8/11 with BetVictor
Athletic Bilbao v Valencia. 8:05PM
It’s an all-Spanish showdown at the San Mames Barria as Enresto Valverde’s Athletic look to establish a crucial first leg advantage against Valencia. In truth, the hosts will be expected to score as a bare minimum.
Aside from the well-documented defensive issues of Gary Neville’s visitors, Los Leones also boast the competition’s top scorer in Aritz Aduriz. Meanwhile, the goals of Inaki Williams and Raul Garcia should give the hosts eve more reason to be optimistic in the attacking third.
Valencia have improved over the past month, even if they are still far from perfect. They’ve now scored in seven of their past eight competitive fixtures and, although that one blank did come in a home game against Athletic, we do expect them to find the target once more.
The corresponding league match ended in a 3-1 win for the hosts. A repeat scoreline in this European showdown would suit us just fine.
BTTS Yes @ 21/20 with BetVictor
Villarreal v Bayer Leverkusen. 8:05PM
Our final selection involves yet another Spanish side as Marcelino’s Villarreal welcome Bayer Leverkusen to the Camp El Madrigal. But if they’re going to seal their place in the quarter-finals, they’ll almost certainly need to establish a lead ahead of next week’s return trip to Germany.
Goals haven’t been a common feature for the Liga side in recent weeks, but the firepower of Roberto Soldado and Cedric Bakambu should give them a great chance of finding the target for the eight Europa League match on the spin
One goal might not be enough to win this leg, though, especially if Javier Hernandez has his shooting boots on. Roger Schmidt’s side haven’t been in the best form lately, but their last four matches have been BTTS winners while they’ve also found the target in each of their past 14 away games.
This is certainly one of the most exciting intriguing battles of the night. Let’s hope to see plenty of goals.
BTTS Yes @ 17/20 with BetVictor
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