Betting on lots of goals in the UEFA Europa League first leg between the best sides in Switzerland and Austria is the best bet on Thursday’s eight-game program in the event.
Swiss Super League frontrunner Basel and Austrian Bundesliga leader Salzburg are the teams in question, with the latter in particular making noise outside its own country. Salzburg is 22 points in front of Grodig at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga after 25 rounds and it has won all eight of its UEFA Europa League matches, including defeating Ajax 3-1 in Austria and 3-0 in the Netherlands. However, before one gets carried away with Salzburg, it is worth noting that it finds itself in the UEFA Europa League because it lost 2-4 to Fenerbahce over two legs in the UEFA Champions League.
One suspects that Salzburg, even though it defeated Bayern Munchen 3-0 in a winter friendly, is a false favourite away to a Basel side that beat Chelsea home and away in the UEFA Champions League group stage. Certainly there are worse bets than Basel at odds of 3.10 with Winner. But it is the style of play that Salzburg employs that point to lots of goals.
According to Bayern Munchen boss Pep Guardiola, never has he seen a team play with higher intensity than Salzburg. The Austrian Bundesliga side, somewhat appropriately for a team that energy drink company Red Bull finances, has developed the pressing game to end all pressing games under Roger Schimdt and his German compatriot, Ralf Rangnick. Ajax failed to handle it and so have most of Salzburg’s rivals during what has been an incredible domestic season.
Salzburg’s consistent tactics mean that they force opponents into errors and, also, run out of steam late on. Salzburg’s results have a common theme – goals for it throughout games and consolation strikes for its rivals in the latter stages.
Twenty of Salzburg’s 26 Austrian Bundesliga matches have gone over two and a half goals, while seven of its eight UEFA Europa League games have exceeded the popular goals total along with one of its two UEFA Champions League fixtures. So that is 28 out of 36, or 77.8 per cent.
Basel does not have the same over-two-and-a-half-goals statistics as Salzburg but only two of its 24 Swiss Super League matches have had fewer than two goals and that is sufficient to support one’s case. Over two and a half goals is available at odds of 1.75 with several bookmakers, including BetVictor and Ladbrokes. This does not look like a UEFA Europa League first leg that will be contested in a cautious, safety-first manner.
A UEFA Europa League first leg that may not be entertaining to watch is the all-Italian Serie A clash between Juventus and Fiorentina. Juventus and Fiorentina managed only two shots on target between them when they played each other in Italian Serie A on Sunday, with Juve requiring a wonderful Kwadwo Asamoah goal to maintain its perfect home record.
Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo missed Sunday’s Italian Serie A game through suspension so one can expect Juve’s attacking output to improve but under two and a half goals is trading at odds of 2.00 with Bet365 and BetVictor, which looks somewhat generous. The odds are that Fiorentina will not play expansively in its away leg.
Finally, 888sport and Unibet is offering odds of 2.30 about Tottenham winning its UEFA Europa League first leg versus Benfica. Those odds suggest that 888sport and Unibet think that Tottenham is inferior to Benfica and that, if the match was at a neutral venue, the English Premier League side would be the underdog. One does not buy into that.
Benfica did not make through the UEFA Champions League group stage, bowing out at the expense of Olympiacos and Paris Saint-Germain. Benfica lost in Piraeus and Paris and one cannot make a sufficiently strong argument to suggest that Tottenham in inferior to Olympiacos at the very least.
Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood has challenged his Spurs players to bounce back from their 0-4 English Premier League loss at Chelsea. If Sherwood gets the right reaction from Tottenham then Spurs may end up making odds of 2.30 looks ridiculous.