Mainz and a couple of Kazakhstan-based teams represent the best bets on the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round first leg program that features a whopping 29 matches.
Last term’s German Bundesliga fifth- to seventh-place sides qualified for this season’s UEFA Europa League, with Mainz taking its place in the competition for the second time in four years. Mainz’s strong home form was a major reason why it earned a UEFA Europa League spot, with 05’s home record in the German Bundesliga reading 10 wins, three draws and four losses. Interestingly, Mainz’s four German Bundesliga home defeats came against the top four teams – Bayern Munchen, Dortmund, Schalke and Leverkusen. To cut a long story short, Mainz’s home games went according to form.
Mainz has played friendly matches against Kaiserslautern, Rot-Weiss Darmstadt and Zurich in preparation for its UEFA Europa League tie versus Asteras, winning all three games. And Mainz will not have been scared by what it saw Asteras achieve in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, with the Greek Super League side making heavy weather of eliminating RoPS in spite of having a numerical advantage for the entire second half of the second leg in Tripoli.
Several bookmakers, including Boylesports and BetFred, are offering odds of 1.40 that Mainz defeats Asteras in their UEFA Europa League third qualifying round first leg, odds that are perfectly reasonable to snap up.
Kazakhstan may conjure up images of Borat in a mankini but the country’s football teams are having an impact on UEFA competitions, which is why one is interested in Astana and Shakhter Karagandy versus AIK and Hajduk Split respectively.
Astana is third in the Kazakhstani Premier League, just two points behind the leader after 21 rounds. Astana progressed to the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round courtesy of a 3-1 aggregate success over Hapoel Tel Aviv, a triumph that included a 3-0 home win in the first leg. Admittedly, Astana received a generous helping hand – Hapoel Tel Aviv went down to 10 men and conceded a penalty kick in the 15th minute – but the bulk of the Kazakhstani side’s form stands up.
One does not rate the Swedish Allsvenskan in which AIK lies third particularly highly and the Solna-based team rode its luck against Linfield in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round. AIK lost 0-1 in Northern Ireland and it took 56 minutes to get on level terms in Sweden. AIK beat Linfield 2-1 on aggregate but it was far from impressive.
Astana, which has won six home matches in a row – five of them with the added bonus of a clean sheet – is available at odds of 2.20 with Boylesports and William Hill to defeat AIK in Kazakhstan. AIK does not win away from home very often and its last Swedish Allsvenskan match resulted in a 1-4 road loss to relatively lowly ranked Falkenberg.
Shakhter Karagandy is one position and three points below Astana in the Kazakhstani Premier League but it boasts an even more impressive home record of nine consecutive wins, hence why one is attracted to the odds of 2.15 with Boylesports about Hajduk Split losing in Kazakhstan.
Hajduk Split’s season has not got off to the greatest of starts. Hajduk Split lost the home leg of its UEFA Europa League second qualifying round tie versus Dundalk and its two Croatian 1. HNL games have generated just one point.
A side from Georgia knocked out Hadjuk Split in last term’s UEFA Europa League preliminaries so one fancies the chance of Shakhter Karagandy at least taking a first-leg lead.
Shakhter Karagandy to beat Hajduk Split
31st July 13:30 GMT
Where to Bet: Boylesports
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