Club Brugge is a team in regression and one cannot resist backing Napoli to beat Michel Preud’homme’s side when the UEFA Europa League group stage kicks off on Thursday.
Eliminated from last season’s UEFA Europa League in the last eight, Club Brugge does not look capable of going deep in this season’s tournament and it may not be able to retain the Belgian Pro League title, either. Club Brugge has lost four of its last five matches across all competitions and, if it had not been for a 7-1 Belgian Pro League home win over Standard, its fans would be calling the Samaritans in their thousands. It is easier to explain Club Brugge’s 7-1 thrashing of Standard as a fluke result than it is to make excuses for the manner of its other recent performances.
Club Brugge lost 1-7 on aggregate to Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League play-offs and its goal was thanks to Red Devils midfielder Michael Carrick putting the ball into his own team’s net. Manchester United is not playing particularly well in spite of its English Premier League ladder position and, therefore, one has to worry about a Club Brugge side that lost 1-3 away and 0-4 at home to the Red Devils. Moreover, Club Brugge lost 1-2 at Panathinaikos in the previous UEFA Champions League round in spite of having a one-man advantage for the entire second half.
Napoli is yet to post its first Italian Serie A victory and one could argue that it is another team that is heading in the wrong direction. However, its starting position was well in front of Club Brugge and its fall from grace is unlikely to be anywhere near as spectacular. Napoli, which won each of its first five UEFA Europa League home games last term before drawing with Wolfsburg and Dnipro in the knockout stage, is trading at odds of -175 with several bookmakers, including SkyBet and Totesport, to defeat Club Brugge. That offer rates as Thursday’s best investment.
One thinks that there would be a couple of high-scoring UEFA Europa League matches on Thursday, namely the games between Groningen and Marseille in the Netherlands and Fiorentina and Basel in Italy. Marathonbet is offering odds of +115 that the UEFA Europa League Group F match between Groningen and Marseille goes over two and a half goals, while the same bookmaker is offering odds of -108 that the UEFA Europa League Group I game between Fiorentina and Basel does.
Dutch Eredivisie sides such as Groningen trends towards over two and a half goals whenever they butt heads with foreign teams and, even though Marseille has parted company with attack-minded coach Marcelo Bielsa recently, L’OM is not going to change its approach overnight. Both Groningen and Marseille featured in high-scoring domestic matches on the weekend – the former beat Heerenveen 3-1 in the Dutch Eredivisie and the latter defeated Bastia 4-1 in French Ligue 1. One cannot see Marseille setting up to defend.
The same goes for Basel, which has posted eight wins from its eight Swiss Super League games, when it faces Fiorentina on the road. Basel has played 13 matches across a range of competitions and here are some of the pertinent statistics – both sides have scored in nine of those games and over two and a half goals has occurred in 10 of those fixtures.
Basel is not going to die wondering – it has a history of attacking away from home, irrespective of its opponent – and it can count itself extremely unlucky not to be in the UEFA Champions League group stage – it had the better of its tie against Maccabi Tel Aviv but football is cruel sometimes.
Napoli to beat Club Brugges
17th September 18:00 GMT
Groningen v Marseille Over 2.5 goals
17th September 18:00 GMT
Fiorentina v Basel Over 2.5 goals
17th September 20:05 GMT
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