Now is not the time to abandon Wolfsburg


There are three UEFA Europa League last-16 first legs on Thursday that stand out from a punting perspective, all of them for very different reasons: there is a favourite that one wants to back, there is a favourite that one wants to lay and there is a favourite that appeals on value grounds.

One is going to start with the UEFA Europa League favourite that one wants to back and that is Wolfsburg, which is on offer at odds of -143  with Bwin and William Hill to defeat Internazionale in Germany on Thursday. One is not going to jump off the Wolfsburg bandswagon – surely that should be Volkswagen – after just one loss, particularly as it was away to an Augsburg that has performed well on home soil.

Wolfsburg’s high-powered offence spluttered against Augsburg but perhaps it was unreasonable to think that the Wolves would keep scoring bagfuls of goals. The match statistics from Saturday’s German Bundesliga game were very even so it is not as though Wolfsburg capitulated – the Wolves failed to take their chances and Augsburg converted one of its.

One cannot see Wolfsburg firing blanks for a second match in a row – the Wolves have not gone two games without a goal since failing to score away to Bayern Munchen and at home to Braunschweig in September and October 2013. And one is going to note that Bayern Munchen was the German Bundesliga title holder and Braunschweig is one of Wolfsburg’s local rivals.

Wolfsburg should not fear Internazionale. Italian Serie A is not up to the same standard as the German Bundesliga and the return of Roberto Mancini to the San Siro has not worked the oracle. Internazionale remains as inconsistent as it was in its Walter Mazzarri period and clean sheets, so important in UEFA competitions, are hard by which to come. Internazionale has kept just half a dozen clean sheets in its 21 matches under Mancini and all bar one of them has occurred versus pretty poor teams – Sampdoria is the strongest side that Inter have shut out, with the others being Celtic, Chievo, Empoli, Palermo and Qarabag. Wolfsburg is much better than those six teams and the Wolves have home advantage as well.

The UEFA Europa League favourite that one wants to lay is Zenit, which is too short in the betting to beat Torino in Russia. Zenit defeated PSV 3-0 in the previous UEFA Europa League off just 44 per cent possession, which goes to show how much the Russian Premier League leader likes to play without the ball. To borrow a phrase from another sport, styles make fights and PSV was the perfect opponent for Zenit. One is not convinced that Torino will be so accommodating, particularly in Russia on Thursday.

Zenit has won each of its last eight UEFA Europa League home games but its UEFA Champions League figures over the same six seasons – 11 wins, six draws and three losses – do not read anywhere near as well. Zenit’s UEFA home numbers are far from impressive against teams with Torino’s credentials and one can see the Italian Serie A’s eight-placed side setting up shop to make life difficult for its host.

Spreadex is offering odds of +140  about Torino receiving one goal for its UEFA Europa League trip to Zenit and one thinks that those are top odds about the away team avoiding defeat. If you don’t have a spreadex account, you can take odds of +130  with PaddyPower.

Finally, the UEFA Europa League favourite that appeals on value grounds is Everton. The way that most bookmakers are betting on Thursday’s UEFA Europa League match between Everton and Dynamo Kyiv suggests that they rate the Toffees as inferior to their Ukrainian opponents. One is willing to be proven wrong but Dynamo Kyiv is winning the Ukrainian Premier League by default because Shakhtar Donetsk is in a world of hurt and the capital-based side’s biggest scalp en route to the UEFA Europa League last 16 has been Guingamp.

One has no doubt that the English Premier League is several levels above the Ukrainian Premier League and one did not have Everton anywhere near to odds of +125  when one did one’s UEFA Europa League tips. Have a dabble at the odds of +125  that BetVictor and William Hill are listing because Everton should be trading at around the +100  mark.

Tips Summary

Wolfsburg to beat Inter Milan
12th March 18:00 GMT
Odds:  -143
Where to Bet: Bwin, William Hill

Torino +1 to beat Zenit
12th March 17:00 GMT
Odds:  +130
Where to Bet: PaddyPower

Everton to beat Dynamo Kyiv
12th March 20:05 GMT
Odds:  +125
Where to Bet: BetVictorWilliam Hill

Roberto Mancini
UEFA Europa League
Walter Mazzarri

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