The most attractive bet on Thursday’s UEFA Europa League third qualifying round card is not on a side to win but on the second leg between St Johnstone and Minsk being a low-scoring affair with fewer than three goals.
St Johnstone is enjoying a dream ride in the UEFA Europa League. First, it upset the odds by knocking out Rosenborg 2-1 on aggregate – including a 1-0 win in Norway and now it is 1-0 to the good going into its home game versus Minsk.
The UEFA Europa League third qualifying round first leg between St Johnstone and Minsk in Belarus was a strange match. The Saints dominated possession in spite of being away from home because Minsk is an out-and-out fast-break team that gets its best results when it can counter attack.
St Johnstone did not fall into Minsk’s trap last week and, even though Saints officials are forecasting that a bumper crowd will pack McDiarmid Park to capacity to roar on their heroes, Tommy Wright will issue his side with instructions not to get carried away and abandon his clear game plan.
Knowing that Minsk has to win to stand a chance of making the next stage of the UEFA Europa League and that seizing the initiative is something that does not come naturally to the Belarusian Premier League team, St Johnstone will be able to sit back and let the clock do the rest for them.
The manner in which the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round second leg should play out ought to assist punters who bet on St Johnstone and Minsk combining for fewer than three goals at 1.85 in PaddyPowers. And also there are the records of the two sides to factor into one’s betting calculations.
Neither St Johnstone nor Minsk is attracting fans because it is entertaining to watch. The Saints have played a total of eight competitive and friendly matches since Wright replaced Steve Lomas as their manager. All of them have gone under the magic 2.5-goal mark, with six having fewer than two goals. The Belarusians are not much fun to watch, either, with six of their last seven games being under matches.
St Johnstone is too short to win the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round second leg at odds of around 1.62. Stick with the exotic bet in one of the most interesting games on the program and look elsewhere for win wagers.
Rapid Wien (Rapid Vienna) stands out as the pick of the head-to-head bets at odds of around 1.73 with PaddyPowrer again to beat Asteras in Austria. Rapid should be fitter than its opponent – the Austrian Bundesliga season is three rounds old, whereas the Greek Super League competition is yet to kick off – and its form reads well having embarrassed Sturm Graz 4-2 away from home last time out despite playing with only 10 men for 86 minutes.
Unbeaten this term if one does not count a loss to LASK Linz on penalties, Rapid ought to be confident of beating its Greek visitor. Asteras lost five and drew the other one of its last six competitive games away from home last season, which strongly suggests that it struggles on the road.
Finally, Thun is worth chancing – and one says that because of the state of its UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie – at odds of around 1.70 to beat Hacken. Thun is up 2-1 following the first leg in Sweden last week.
Thun has made a respectable start to its Swiss Super League campaign, with its only defeat coming at Young Boys where it led 2-0 after 53 minutes but ended up losing 2-3. Young Boys is top of the ladder after four rounds and may finish the season with the most prized trophy in Swiss football.
Hacken is 18 rounds into its Swedish Allsvenskan adventure and it has relegation worries as a result of its 6-2-10 record that places it only five points above the play-off spot that Brommapojkarna occupies currently. Hacken must score at least twice to have a chance of eliminating Thun from the Europa League so it will have to go for broke. That means exposing one of the worst defences in the Swedish top flight. Only two teams – Brommapojkarna and Syrianska – have conceded more goals than Hacken in that tournament.
Thun is unbeaten in its last nine competitive home matches – five wins and four draws – and it was the better side when the Swiss and the Swedish teams met in Scandinavia.
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