Free-scoring Wolfsburg was far too good for Sporting in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League tie and one wants to back the Wolves to win the second leg at odds of +160 with several bookmakers, including Betfred and Totesport.
One likes how the UEFA Europa League second leg between Sporting and Wolfsburg sets up for the Wolves. Many pundits say that it is disadvantage to play the home leg of a tie first but that is nonsense and, if anything, the reverse is true. The away-goals rule means that if a team wins at home without conceding a goal then it is in a brilliant position. Even if a team loses, say, 0-1 at home in the first leg then it knows that scoring the first leg in the second leg would put it on level terms and, because of the way that the rule works, make its opponent extremely nervous. If one was the manager of a team competing in the UEFA Europa League, one would want to play every first leg at home, particularly if one’s team was as capable of scoring anywhere as Wolfsburg is. Wolfsburg has scored in 28 of its 31 matches across all competitions, including in each of its last dozen games, so one expects to see the Wolves attack Sporting in Lisbon.
The UEFA Champions League group stage and the Portuguese Primeira Liga showed that Sporting is a second-class side versus the big boys. Chelsea beat Sporting home and away in UEFA Champions League Group G and the Stamford Bridge match was a dead rubber for the Blues and of utmost importance to the Lions. Sporting has played a total of three Portuguese Primeira Liga games against Benfica and Porto – two of them at home – for three 1-1 draws. One should note that Sporting visits Porto in its next Portuguese Primeira Liga match so, if Wolfsburg opens the scoring and leaves the Lions needing at least four normal-time goals to reach the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League, one would not be at all surprised to see Marco Silva making substitutions with Sunday’s game in mind.
One was annoyed for not tipping Zenit to win at PSV in their UEFA Europa League first leg because the Russian Premier League ladder excels on the counter attack and, while PSV gets away with murder in the Dutch Eredivisie, there was a good chance that it would pay for its mistakes against an international team, which is what happened in Eindhoven.
PSV trails Zenit 1-0 and, therefore, its UEFA Europa League campaign rests upon its ability to score at least one goal in St Petersburg. That should result in an open match and enable Zenit to hit PSV on the break. The Russian Premier League does not resume from its winter holiday until next month so one admits that Zenit may not be 100 per cent fit but it was too good for PSV in Eindhoven and odds of -118 with many bookmakers, including SkyBet and WilliamHill, are too good to pass up about a repeat. PSV has kept only three clean sheets in its 19 away games, most of them versus weak sides, across all competitions.
One is under no misapprehension about the quality of Italian Serie A – its best days are in the past – and Internazionale is one of the division’s most unpredictable teams. But odds of -167 with Bwin and WilliamHill about Celtic losing at Internazionale are generous. Celtic is going to win the Scottish Premiership again but one thinks that the Bhoys would struggle to survive in the English Premier League. Would you be interested in backing Internazionale at odds of -167 to beat, say, Crystal Palace at the San Siro? Of course you would so Internazionale, which ought to won instead of drawing in Glasgow last week, makes one’s list.
With regards to UEFA Europa League exotics, the best bet is both sides to score in the second leg between Salzburg and Villarreal, an option that is available at odds of -200 with Ladbrokes and PaddyPower. Both teams have scored in each of Salzburg’s eight UEFA Europa League matches because its defence is not up to scratch and it has a commitment to all-out attack. Villarreal, which must think that it will need at least one goal in Salzburg to reach the UEFA Europa League last 16, has scored in each of its four away games in the competition and its domestic numbers are strong as well.
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