The UEFA Europa League second qualifying round matches start this week, with the first legs set to be played on Thursday evening. The competition begins to slowly hot up at this stage as higher level teams enter the tournament, but we’re backing two of last week’s winning tips to continue the good work and grab first leg leads at home this week. There is also a great opportunity to back Legia Warsaw at a decent price on home ground against inferior opposition, and that shouldn’t be sniffed at.
Legia Warsaw v FC Botosani 8pm
Legia Warsaw famously knocked Celtic out of the Champions League qualifiers last year, only to be disqualified, allowing the Parkhead club to be reinstated. Legia went on to play in the group stages of the Europa League last season, and reached the knockout stages where they were defeated by Ajax. They should be streets ahead of Romanian side Botosani, who have never reached the group stage before.
Legia beat Celtic 4-1 at home then 2-0 away in the Champions League qualifiers last August, but ended up being dumped out of the competition due to fielding an ineligible player. UEFA overturned the 2-0 away win and awarded Celtic with a 3-0 victory, thereby eliminating Legia Warsaw. The Polish side appealed to both UEFA and Celtic to change the decision, but it fell on deaf ears and they were relegated to the Europa League. Howver, the Poles were left with the last laugh as Celtic lost to Slovenians NK Maribor in the next round, thus failing to reach the Champions League group stages anyway.
Botosani beat Georgian side, FC Tskhinvali, in the last round with a 1-1 home draw and a 3-1 away win, but they won’t have faced too many sides of Legia Warsaw’s pedigree. They were soundly beaten by two of the best sides in the Romanian League away from home recently – Steaua Bucharest and CFR Cluj – without scoring a goal, and it would be a big surprise if Warsaw don’t develop a commanding first leg lead. The Polish side have won 7 of 8 on home soil, and are something of a banker on Thursday night.
Slask Wroclaw v IFK Goteborg 7.30pm
We took a risk on Slask Wroclaw last week, as they were already ahead in the tie and only needed to draw at home. We backed them to win nonetheless, and they duly obliged beating NK Celje 3-1. They are a risky bet again this week, but they have a great home record and are worth a punt to take a first leg lead against Swedish side IFK Goteborg.
Slask were already 1-0 up on Celje before last week’s second leg, but that didn’t stop them putting in an impressive performance to notch their fifth win in a row in all competitions. Their home record is just as good – they haven’t lost at home since March – and they provide a little bit of value to grab a home win on Thursday night.
Slask Wroclaw – 13/102.30+1301.301.30-0.77 with BetVictor
Slask were last in the Europa League qualifiers in 2013/14 when they made it through to the (4th qualifying round) play-off. They were unfortunate to come up against the team that would go on to lift the trophy, Sevilla, and wound up on the end of a 9-1 thrashing. This will be the third consecutive year that Goteborg will be competing in the competition, but they could only reach the third qualifying round last year, going down to Portuguese side Rio Ave.
Polish football is undergoing something of a resurgence, and Slask are worth following to take a first leg lead. Goteborg will provide stiff opposition as they are in excellent form domestically flying high in the table, but they will know they have the second leg to come, so a minor defeat here will not be too much of a worry.
FH Harfnarfjordur v Inter Baku 8.15pm
Icelandic side Harfnarfjordur also did us a favour at decent odds last week, and there’s no reason why they can’t come in again on Thursday. Ironically both of these sides were knocked out of last year’s competition by Elfsborg, who beat Inter Baku in the second qualifying round, then Harfnarfjordur in the third qualifying round.
FH Harfnarfjordur – 13/102.30+1301.301.30-0.77 with PaddyPower
The Icelanders have a superb home record and it’s now 15 wins in the last 20 matches on home soil. Azerbaijani side Inter Baku will find it tough to get anything from the game out there, and will already have eyes on the second leg at home. However, they have never gone beyond this second qualifying round, and it looks like time might be up again in this year’s competition. Harfnarfjordur’s journey to the qualifying play-off round last year was the furthest that they’d ever been, but they are sure to want to taste that action again. They can make their awesome home record count against a tricky side. Baku finished 2nd in their domestic league, just five points behind the leaders Qarabag. They are bound to be a well-organised and determined side, but may struggle away from home. Harfnarfjordur haven’t failed to score at home in those last 20 matches, and can be expected to find the net on Thursday night. That may not be enough to carry them to victory, but we’ll take the chance that it is, and recommend backing them at a tasty price.
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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