All-Spanish game to be all square at half time

seville valanciaFirst legs of semi-final ties have a tendency to be nervy and that phenomenon, allied to the half-time statistics of Sevilla and Valencia, throw up a bet in the UEFA Europa League game between the Spanish Primera Division sides.

The home form of Sevilla and the away form of Valencia will lead many punters to back the home team at odds of 1.91 with several bookmakers, including Coral and Paddy Power, to take out the UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg. Sevilla has won five home matches in a row and it has been victorious in seven of its last eight home games, with the exception being its 0-2 loss to Betis. One is willing to forgive that result because derbies are weird. Valencia has not won any of its last five away matches. However, it did draw 0-0 at Sevilla two months ago in spite of playing with one fewer player for 40 minutes of the Spanish Primera Division contest. Eventually, both sides had 10 men.

That 0-0 draw is sufficient to put one off Sevilla at odds on, particularly as several bookmakers, including Bet365 and Bwin, are offering odds of 2.20 about the UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg being level at half time.

Ten of Sevilla’s 17 Spanish Primera Division home games have been all square at half time, with only 24 goals being put into the back of the net. And 10 of Valencia’s 17 Spanish Primera Division away matches have not had a half-time leader, with just 15 goals scored in those first halves. No Spanish Primera Division team has had more half-time away draws than Valencia, while Sevilla’s half-time home draws numbers rank it fourth behind Elche, Espanyol and Levante.

Sevilla and Valencia have managed only one first-half goal in their two Spanish Primera Division meetings this season – Jonas scored for Valencia in the 32nd minute of their 3-1 victory in September – so one thinks that bookmakers should be listing the UEFA Europa League semi-final first-leg half-time draw at odds just under the even-money mark.

The other UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg sees Benfica host Juventus. Benfica has won seven games in a row and Juventus has won five matches on the bounce so it is fair to say that both sides are high on confidence.

Assessing Benfica is hard because the Portuguese Primeria Liga that it has dominated this term – it is seven points clear of Sporting and another 11 points ahead of Porto – is a second-tier European club competition. Juventus is eight points in front of Roma in Italian Serie A but, while the scudetto does not carry the lustre that it did in the 1980s, few people would rate it below the Portuguese Primeria Liga.

BenficaThe best way to assess Benfica is to review its results in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League this season. Benfica did not make it past the UEFA Champions League group stage but it did accrue seven points from its three home games versus Anderlecht, Olympiacos and Paris Saint-Germain. Benfica has won five and drawn one of its half a dozen UEFA Europa League matches, with its only slip up being its 2-2 home draw against Tottenham. However, one should note that Benfica was cruising having won 3-1 at White Hart Lane seven days earlier. Beating Tottenham 5-3 on aggregate and registering a 2-1 home win over PSG mark out Benfica as a good team but not quite out of the top drawer.

Juventus has been workmanlike in its Italian Serie A title defence, registering a lot of narrow victories, both at home and on the road. Juventus did not cover itself in glory in the UEFA Champions League, although it has redeemed itself with its unbeaten UEFA Europa League run. One thinks that there is not a great deal to choose between Benfica and Juventus, with the Italian Serie A leader’s slight edge cancelled out by the Portuguese Primeria Liga frontrunner’s home advantage. Therefore, one believes that the draw makes the most sense from a punting perspective at odds of 3.30 with Betfred and Ladbrokes.

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