Dinamo Zagreb converted a penalty kick to beat Benfica in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League tie but the odds are stacked against the Blues in Thursday’s second leg.
Marin Leovac and Ivan Sunjic overstepped the mark last week in Croatia so they are suspended for Dinamo Zagreb and the depth of the Blues will be tested by other injury-related absences. Dinamo Zagreb is 17 points clear of second-ranked Rijeka at the top of the Croatian 1. HNL ladder but the Blues lost 0-1 at their biggest domestic rival and their UEFA Europa League away results have been mixed. Dinamo Zagreb’s toughest assignment this season has come at the worst possible time and the Blues will struggle to keep their UEFA Europa League dream alive at Benfica’s expense.
Benfica is above second-placed Porto on the Portuguese Primeira Liga ladder due to its superior goal difference and the Eagles have beaten their chief championship rival both at home and on the road. Benfica’s attacking power is such the prospect of it overturning a one-goal deficit will not daunt its players, who have scored 68 times in their team’s 25 Portuguese Primeira Liga games. Benfica’s lack of an away goal has the potential to compromise its UEFA Europa League involvement but, in a way, it makes one less worried about backing the Eagles to win their second leg versus Dinamo Zagreb because the Blues can progress with a loss provided the margin in Portugal on Thursday is only one goal.
Second legs of UEFA Europa League last-16 ties are not one’s favourite punting vehicles but Benfica has a class edge over Dinamo Zagreb, a draw would have been a fairer result than a Blues victory in the first leg and the visitors are set to line up without several of their regular starters.
TOP TIP! – Benfica to beat Dinamo Zagreb @ -217 with 188bet
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TOP TIP! – Arsenal to eliminate Rennes @ +100
Arsenal contributed to its own downfall last week, throwing away a 1-0 lead to lose 1-3 at Rennes. Sokratis received his marching orders just before half time when Arsenal was one up, Rennes equalised within 60 seconds of the sending-off offence, Nacho Monreal scored an own goal midway through the second period and the Gunners conceded a third goal in the dying minutes. Arsenal should have made easy work of Rennes over two UEFA Europa League legs but now the Gunners have to put a gap on their French opponents in England on Thursday at +100 with 188bet.
Rennes has hit form with four wins and one draw from its last five matches across all competitions but the Red and Blacks have struggled against French Ligue 1’s strong sides this season, boasting a 2-5-5 record in their dozen games versus teams ranked higher than their eighth spot. Arsenal is fourth on the English Premier League ladder and the Gunners have beaten 11 of their divisional rivals by at least two goals on their home pitch, including Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea. One thinks Arsenal is a fair bet to qualify for the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals.
TOP TIP! – Salzburg to beat Napoli @ +100 with Bet365
One’s third and final UEFA Europa League pick is Salzburg, which probably cannot reach the last eight following its 0-3 first leg at Napoli but probably can record a home win over an away side set to field an inexperienced central defence. One is for certain and that is Salzburg, which is part of the Red Bull group of clubs, will not die wondering.
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