And it is not just that Dnipro lost twice to Internazionale, which is four positions and 10 points below Napoli on the Italian Serie A ladder, that leads one to nominate Rafa Benitez’s team as the best bet on the UEFA Europa League semi-final first-leg card at odds of -250 with Betfred and Totesport. Dnipro has ridden its luck to get to the UEFA Europa League last four and the manner in which it tackles opponents – literally – is likely to prove problematic versus Napoli at a San Paolo packed with fervent fans.
Dnipro finished second in UEFA Europa League Group F with a negative goal difference and just seven points from its six matches, which included a 0-1 home to loss to Azerbaijani minnow Qarabag. Dnipro benefitted from Olympiakos having a player sent off in their UEFA Europa League last-32 second leg, it needed the away-goals rule to knock out Ajax in the last 16 and it edged past Club Brugge 1-0 on aggregate in the last eight. Dnipro, which failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage when it lost 0-2 on aggregate to Kobenhavn, has played seven road games across the two UEFA competitions for one win over Qarabag, four draws with Club Brugge, Hajduk Split, Olympiakos and Saint-Etienne and two losses to Ajax and Internazionale. Napoli should not be quaking its boots at the prospect of facing Dnipro.
And then there is Dnipro’s propensity to commit fouls and accrue cards. Dnipro has committed more fouls (199) and accrued more yellow cards (43) than any other side in the UEFA Europa League – such roughhouse tactics are likely to result in disciplinary issues in Italy. Most bookmakers are slow to throw up cards-related markets but BetVictor has odds on individual players receiving either a yellow card or a red card. The Dnipro player who makes most appeal on this exotic market is Artem Fedetskyi, who is available at odds of +100 . Fedetskyi has been cautioned in five of Dnipro’s 10 UEFA Europa League matches, he has collected six yellow cards in 18 domestic games and, as a starting full back in an underdog team, one expects that he will have to do a lot of defending. Clearly Fedetskyi likes to get stuck in.
Thursday’s other UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg pits the Spanish Primera Division’s fifth-placed side, Sevilla, against Italian Serie A’s fifth-placed side, Fiorentina. This match is harder to call than the game between Napoli and Dnipro but one is in Sevilla’s camp at odds of -110 with Betfred and Totesport.
First, one rates the Spanish Primera Division higher than Italian Serie A so Sevilla’s fifth place in its domestic tournament carries more weight than Fiorentina’s fifth place in its local competition. The Spanish Primera Division may not have the depth of, say, the English Premier League but, at the top of the ladder, one thinks that it is very strong.
Second, Sevilla’s home record is outstanding. Sevilla had gone 34 competitive home matches across all competitions without defeat – 28 wins and six draws – until Real Madrid won 3-2 at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan on Saturday courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick. There was no shame in Sevilla losing 2-3 to one of the two best teams in club football.
And third, Fiorentina’s recent form has been patchy to say the least, with Vincenzo Montella’s side winning only two of its last eight games across all competitions and those victories were at home to Cesena and Dynamo Kyiv.
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