Home in on Blue and Yellows on Plastic Pitch

Astana beat Celtic 4-3 at home in a Champions League qualifier.

Astana beat Celtic 4-3 at home in a Champions League qualifier.

Home advantage comes in all shapes and sizes and Astana’s is one of Europe’s greatest so the Blue and Yellows are worth backing to beat Slavia Praha in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League Group A game between the sides in Kazakhstan.

The Astana Arena has an artificial playing surface and, while fake turf is increasingly common throughout Europe, most top teams do not encounter it on a regular basis. It takes time to get used to the speed and bounce of artificial pitches and, when you factor in making a long trip to the European outpost of Kazakhstan, Astana’s home advantage against a side such as Slavia Praha is significant.

Astana’s home numbers across domestic and international competitions are terrific – the Blue and Yellows are 14-2-0 in their last 16 Kazakh Premier League, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches, including recent victories over Legia Warszawa and a 4-3 win against Celtic.

Slavia Praha is unbeaten in its last eight games across all tournaments but the Red and Whites are 0-4-2 in their half a dozen away matches this term, including being 0-0-2 in their two UEFA-sanctioned assignments, both of which were in the Champions League. Slavia shapes as being one of those teams that will struggle at Astana and, with Marathonbet offering odds of +165  about the Blue and Yellows getting their UEFA Europa League Group A campaign back on track after losing 1-3 at Villarreal two weeks ago, they are one’s top picks.

It has been a few years since BATE was capable of really mixing it with sides from Europe’s top divisions. BATE will host Arsenal in Belarus on Thursday and one is interested in punting on the Gunners at odds of -204  with Marathonbet.

BATE beat Roma 3-2 at home in September 2015 but since then its European scalps have been limited to SJK of Finland, Dundalk of Ireland, Alashkert of Armenia, Slavia Praha of the Czech Republic and Oleksandria of Ukraine. Arsenal is several notches better than each of BATE’s recent European victims and the Gunners have rebounded from their English Premier League thumping at Liverpool with four wins and one draw, including a 3-1 UEFA Europa League Group H home triumph over Koln a fortnight ago in a delayed game.

European trips do not come much tougher than those to Greek venues and AEK rounds out one’s UEFA Europa League wagers at odds of -149  with Bwin to defeat Austria Wien on Thursday.

Back from the grave – AEK was relegated from the Greek Super League in 2013 – the Yellow and Blacks lead Greece’s top flight by two points after five rounds of action as they attempt to break the seven-season winning streak of their local rivals, Olympiacos. AEK crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in losing 0-3 on aggregate to CSKA Moskva but the Yellow and Blacks are 7-2-0 in their subsequent nine matches across all competitions, including a last-start 3-2 Greek Super League home victory over Olympiacos.

Unlike AEK, which registered a UEFA Europa League Group D road win over Rijeka in the first batch of games, Austria Wien is under huge pressure in the section because it lost 1-5 at home to Milan two weeks ago. Austria Wien only got past Osijek on away goals in the UEFA Europa League preliminaries and its Milan result was a shocker.

Tips Summary

FC Astana to beat Sparta Prague
Thursday 28th September, 16:00 GMT
Odds:  +165

Arsenal to beat BATE
Thursday 28th September, 18:00 GMT
Odds:  -204

AEK Athens to beat Austria Vienna
Thursday 28th September, 20:05 GMT
Odds:  -149