Saints to March Into UEFA Europa League Group Stage


The result of the UEFA Europa League play-offs first leg between Southampton and Midtylland was very harsh on the Saints and one thinks that they represent the best bet on the card when the 22 second legs take place on Thursday.

Southampton travels to Denmark after drawing the first leg of its UEFA Europa League play-offs tie 1-1 in England but the match statistics show that Midtylland was fortunate to escape with a share of the spoils. Southampton had 21 goal attempts to Midtylland’s six, the Saints hit the woodwork and their opponents received four yellow cards in a sign of their desperation in holding on for grim death at St Mary’s.

Midtylland is a side that has made headlines around the world for its Moneyball approach to football and it does deserve the international attention that it and its sister team, Brentford, has received. But some perspective would not go amiss with regards to Midtylland and its chance of eliminating Southampton from the UEFA Europa League. UEFA rates Denmark, of which Midtylland is the champion, as the 24th strongest association, which ranks it much lower than England (third) and the Netherlands (10th). Southampton won 2-0 at Vitesse of the Netherlands in the previous UEFA Europa League round – 5-0 on aggregate – and Midtylland finds itself in UEFA’s secondary competition because it crashed out of the UEFA Champions League to APOEL, the domestic title holder of 18th-ranked Cyprus.

Southampton must score at Midtylland in normal time to have any chance of progressing in the UEFA Europa League and one feels that the Saints are overpriced at odds of +110 with several bookmakers, including PaddyPower and William Hill, to win in Denmark. Certainly one would rather support Southampton at odds against to beat Midtylland in normal time than back the Saints at odds on to qualify.

Panathinaikos kicked off its Greek Super League campaign with a 2-1 victory at Panaitolikos on Monday and one thinks that it will defeat Qabala in Greece to earn its spot in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, an option that is available at the attractive odds of -227 with SkyBet.

Qabala won three UEFA Europa League ties to earn the right to face Panathinaikos but none of its performance were good and its away games resulted in two losses and one draw. Up in class, Qabala was second best versus Panathinaikos in Azerbaijan last week and one does not fancy it chance of stopping Yannis Anastasiou’s side in the return fixture.

Panathinaikos beat Club Brugge 2-1 in Greece during the UEFA Champions League preliminaries and it mauled Midtylland 4-1 in front of its passionate fans this time last season.

Finally, Legia Warszawa was too good for Zorya in Ukraine seven days ago and one thinks that it constitutes a decent bet at odds of -125 with William Hill to compete a UEFA Europa League double over its opponent.

Legia Warszawa beat Zorya 1-0 thanks to Michal Kucharczyk’s goal three minutes after half time that was, on balance, a fair reflection of the UEFA Europa League play-offs first leg in Ukraine – Legia edged Zorya in the key statistics.

Legia has won each of its five UEFA Europa League matches this term and it did not allow complacency to seep into its ranks in the previous round, either. Legia won 1-0 at home to Kukesi after pretty much putting the tie to bed in the first leg with a 3-0 away victory. Remember, the away-goals rule means that teams such as Legia are not unassailable following a 1-0 road win and, therefore, we think that Henning Berg’s side will be switched on for the game.

Tips Summary

Southampton to beat Midtylland
27th August 19:45 GMT
Odds:  +110

Panathinaikos to beat Qabala
27th August 19:00 GMT
Odds:  -227

Legia Warszawa to beat Zorya
27th August 20.00 GMT
Odds:  -125

Legia Warszawa
Michal Kucharczyk
UEFA Europa League

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