The UEFA Europa League round of 32 concludes this week and there are three excellent bets among the second-leg matches, the pick of them being a bet on both teams to score in the match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Plzen in the Ukraine.
Two goals in the space of three second-half minutes ensured that punters who had backed both sides to score in the UEFA Europa League first leg between Shakhtar Donetsk and Plzen made money as the two famously enterprising teams played their natural games in the Czech Republic last week.
It is advantage Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Europa League tie given that the aggregate score is 1-1 and Shakhtar has an excellent home record. Shakhtar has won 14 and drawn five of its 19 home matches since losing 0-1 to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League 14 months ago. Go back another year and Shakhtar’s home numbers since losing 0-2 to Porto in November 2011 read 31 wins, six draws and one loss. Even though Shakhtar is not as good as it was few seasons ago – hence why it finds itself in the UEFA Europa League – it does not give away very much in front of its home fans.
But rather than backing Shakhtar Donetsk at odds of 1.36 with several bookmakers, including BetVictor, Boylesports and William Hill, to beat Plzen, one should look at backing both sides to score at odds of 2.15 with William Hill.
Plzen is not going to give up its UEFA Europa League place without a fight and it has earned its reputation as one of the continent’s adventurous teams. Plzen has scored in each of its last eight competitive games and it has only failed to rustle the onion bag twice in its last 22 away matches and one of them was a 0-5 loss to brilliant Bayern Munchen.
Over the last one and half terms Plzen has played a total of 14 road games across the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League tournaments, including matches against the likes of CSKA Mosvka, Manchester City and Napoli. Plzen has scored at least one goal in 12 of those matches, with its blanks coming versus Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munchen.
The next best UEFA Europa League bet is AZ to defeat Liberec at odds of 1.57 with BetVictor and William Hill. AZ leads Liberec 1-0 at the halfway point of their UEFA Europa League tie but, because of the away-goals rule, the Dutch Eredivisie side cannot afford to rest on its laurels. AZ has to play the second leg in Alkmaar as if the clash is level.
It took until the 89th minute in the Czech Republic for AZ to translate its superiority into a goal but the Dutch Eredivisie team was good value for its 1-0 victory. AZ had 67 per cent of the ball and more shots on target and corners than Liberec. It was dominant away performance by AZ and one on which one thinks that it will build back on home turf.
Finally, Benfica has won each of its last seven home games without conceding a single goal and it is worth supporting at odds of 2.00 with Sky Bet to stretch its sequence to eight when it entertains PAOK in the UEFA Europa League.
Benfica beat PAOK 1-0 in Thessaloniki last week and, if one knows anything about the home ground of PAOK, one will know that it is one of the most inhospitable venues in European football. Benfica did very well to escape with a 1-0 win.
One has made note of Benfica’s incredible home form so now it is time to review the away data of PAOK. It does not read well. PAOK has lost each of its last four road matches in the Greek Super League and it is not in Benfica’s class, engineering only one effort on goal in the UEFA Europa League first leg between the sides seven days ago.
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