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It has been six and a half years since Shakhtar Donetsk won a UEFA Europa League match and one thinks that its long wait for a victory in the competition will continue with a loss to Schalke in the second leg of their tie on Thursday.
Schalke had the better of last week’s UEFA Europa League first leg draw in Lviv, the Ukrainian city in which Shakhtar Donetsk is playing its home games currently. Schalke had a goal rubbed out for a push and the German Bundesliga team was unlucky not to score from a late indirect free kick, all of which took place before Shakhtar Donetsk central defender Olexandr Kucher was sent off for bringing down Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting just as the Royal Blues forward was about to unleash his side’s 15th attempt on goal in the 86th minute. That Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov was the man of the match tells you everything that you need to know.
Shakhtar Donetsk is top of the Ukrainian Premier League but it bid farewell to Alex Teixeira earlier this month because the Brazil youth international could not resist the massive money on offer from Jiangsu Suning. Shakhtar Donetsk’s 0-0 UEFA Europa League home draw with Schalke was the result of its first competitive game since early December and it is unlikely to have been sufficient to blow away the cobwebs.
Schalke is available at odds of -116 with Marathonbet to beat Shakhtar Donetsk in Gelsenkirchen and that strikes one as a fair bet. Schalke should have won the first leg of the UEFA Europa League clash against a Shakhtar Donetsk team that was stronger in the UEFA Champions League group stage yet failed to score in four of its six matches versus Malmo, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid – the Meringues led 4-0 after 76 minutes in Lviv before their guests got off the mark.
Another German Bundesliga side participating in the UEFA Europa League that warrants attention is Leverkusen, which is trading at odds of -125 with Coral to do the double over a Sporting side that it battered in last week’s first leg.
Leverkusen had 14 attempts to Sporting’s two as the German Bundesliga’s fourth-placed side dominated the Portuguese Primeira Liga’s frontrunner. Sporting could not deal with Leverkusen’s all-action style and, if Karim Bellarabi’s late strike had found the back of the net instead of rebounding off the post, it would have resulted in a fairer scoreline than the 1-0 margin by which the Factory Team did win.
Sporting will have to back up against Leverkusen in Germany just three days after tackling Boavista in a Portuguese Primeira Liga game so the Lisbon-based side’s schedule is against it as well. Leverkusen has come up short versus the German Bundesliga’s elite – it is 0-1-4 against Bayern Munchen, Dortmund and Hertha – which is why one was not confident about it getting something positive out of its UEFA Europa League match at Sporting last week. However, Leverkusen was easily the better team in Portugal and bookmakers have not accounted enough for that result.
Dortmund is in control of the UEFA Europa League tie after winning last week’s first leg in Germany 2-0. Dortmund’s mind is on the UEFA Europa League – its supporters made their feelings clear with a brilliant tifo – and BVB’s exciting attackers are likely to get plenty of sights on goal because Porto has to throw caution to the wind. One expects Dortmund to score – BVB have failed to rustle the onion bag in just one of their 22 German Bundesliga matches – and any away goal would leave Porto needing to net at least four times in normal time. Porto has scored in 14 of its 16 competitive home games and it has only fired two blanks in its last 20 home matches in UEFA tournaments.
Schalke to beat Shakhtar Donetsk
25th February 18:00 GMT
Leverkusen to beat Sporting
25th February 18:00 GMT
Porto v Dortmund BTTS
25th February 20:05 GMT
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