Elfsborg is a football team that is allergic to grass so one thinks that Randers is the best bet among the midweek batch of UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches.
Artificial pitches have come a long way since the likes of Luton, Preston and Queens Park Rangers implemented them in England before the turn of the century, with many European sides installing them to stop games being postponed in the winter months. The problem with artificial pitches is that they play very differently to those made of grass and that results in some teams experiencing big differences between their performances on home plastic and away soil.
Elfsborg has played on an artificial pitch since its Boras Arena opened in 2005 and, over time, the difference between its home and away results has got bigger and bigger. Did you know that Elfsborg has not won a match on grass since it won 2-1 at Swedish Allsvenskan rival Malmo on 18 October? Elfsborg’s away numbers since that day read quite well to the untrained eye but all its road victories have occurred on artificial pitches, with no wins on natural green stuff.
If you need any more proof that Elfsborg’s form fluctuates wildly depending on underfoot conditions then look back at the last round of UEFA Europa League ties. Elfsborg scraped a 2-2 draw at Lahti before spanking its Finnish foes 5-0 at home – the turnaround had everything to do with the pitches.
Elfsborg has drawn Scandinavian neighbour Randers in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, with the first leg in Denmark on Thursday. Randers has the disadvantage of being out of season because the Danish Superligaen is on its summer break but Colin Todd’s side has been ticking over and it took part in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round, beating Sant Julia 1-0 in Andorra and 3-0 at home.
UEFA believes that there is little to choose between the Danish and Swedish leagues – their coefficients are close – so the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round tie looks evenly balanced. But what appears beyond doubt is that the first leg in Denmark will favour Randers, with Elfsborg not favoured by playing away from its artificial pitch. Randers is trading at odds of +160 with 888Sport and Unibet to snare a first-leg lead and that seems like a good bet.
Vaduz receives a bad rap because it is in Liechtenstein but the city’s top team has performed admirably in the Swiss Super League for many seasons. Vaduz, which is in the UEFA Europa League because it has won the Liechtenstein Cup every years since 1998, has a second qualifying round first leg against Kalju on Thursday and one thinks that the favourite is overpriced at odds of -189 with PaddyPower to get the better of its second-rate opponent from Estonia.
It is a miracle that Kalju knocked out Aktobe in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round because every single statistic except goals favoured the Kazakh side. On the balance of play over the two legs, Kalju should have lost on aggregate by half a dozen goals but, somehow, it won 1-0. To give you a favour of what transpired, Aktobe had 59 attempts to Kalju’s 17 and the corner count ended up 20 to four.
Finally, the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round kicks off on Tuesday and the most appealing bet among those fixtures is Skenderbeu to beat Crusaders at odds of -167 with BetVictor and Ladbrokes. Again, this is a tie that pitches – pardon the pun – artificial versus natural.
One thinks that Skenderbeu, which has performed well versus stronger teams than Crusaders in recent UEFA tournaments, is well equipped to build a lead at the halfway stage of their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round clash. Like Elfsborg, Crusaders is more comfortable on its artificial pitch and the Northern Ireland Premiership side will be without its captain, Colin Coates, in Albania because the semi-professional skipper is away on a family holiday.
Vaduz to beat Kalju
16th July 18:45 GMT
Where to Bet: PaddyPower
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