Much of this week’s focus has been aimed at the Champions League but it would be foolish to ignore the Europa League.
With a number of quality teams involved, the tournament is becoming more and more important – especially in the race to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition. Manchester United fans will back that up after their exploits in 2016/17…
A few of Europe’s most successful clubs will fancy their chances of Europa League glory this season and they don’t come much bigger than AC Milan.
The seven-time European Cup winners are well placed to advance past Ludogorets Razgrad as we enter the business end of the competition. Check out our top tips on the first leg action below.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND vs Atalanta
Marco Reus’ return was a welcome boost for Dortmund on Saturday and the Germany star helped his side to a 2-0 victory against Hamburger SV.
Yes, the Europa League probably isn’t at the top of Dortmund’s priority list but silverware is silverware and the Bundesliga outfit have a real chance to go all the way to the final.
Meanwhile, Atalanta are prone to the odd slip-up but the Italian side are improving on a yearly basis.
Now eighth in the Serie A table, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side will be confident of finishing the season strongly and Dortmund may struggle if Atalanta defend well. The away side have conceded just four goals in the competition so far – an impressive feat.
But despite Atalanta’s resilience at the back, they lack options in attack and Dortmund will be relentless. The visitors may crumble under pressure and 3/4 is a great price for Peter Stoger’s team to take a lead into the second leg.
TIP: Borussia Dortmund to win @ 3/4
Ludogorets Razgrad vs AC MILAN
This is a real David vs Goliath encounter. Ludogorets, Bulgarian champions in each of the last six years, take on seven-time European Cup winners AC Milan.
Victory for the hosts here would send shockwaves across the continent – and punters who backed Ludogorets, priced at 5/2 to win the first leg, would be celebrating this dramatic underdog triumph.
After a hit-and-miss start to the 2017/18 campaign, Milan have found their feet in recent months. Gennaro Gattuso’s men have now gone eight games without defeat and plenty of punters will fancy the visitors here.
Their Europa League form since mid-August has been impeccable and another win beckons on Thursday evening.
Milan should be far too strong for Ludogorets, especially over two legs. For me, the visitors will do just about enough in Bulgaria before running riot at the San Siro and that is why the Rossoneri are my top tip of the week at 11/10.
TIP: AC Milan to win @ 11/10
Ostersunds FK vs ARSENAL
Ostersunds will fancy their chances against Arsenal here – the hosts have lost just one of their last 28 fixtures at Jamtkraft Arena.
Furthermore, they’ve won five of their six Europa League home games this season, the only blemish on that record is a 2-2 draw with Athletic Bilbao. The Gunners will not have everything their own way.
Arsene Wenger has vowed to go with a full-strength side ahead of this fixture, claiming that he has no reason to rest players with the Gunners already eliminated from this season’s FA Cup.
This could get ugly for the hosts though, Arsenal will be looking to send a statement of intent after Saturday’s disappointing derby day defeat to Tottenham.
The visitors will be keen to rest players in the second leg as that fixture takes place just three days before the Carabao Cup final. With that in mind, Arsenal represent solid value at 12/25.
TIP: Arsenal to win @ 12/25
NAPOLI vs RB LEIPZIG
Napoli are currently one point clear of Juventus in the Serie A title race and Maurizio Sarri’s side will be determined to claim the Italian title for the first time since 1990.
Again, Europe’s secondary club competition is not a priority for Napoli but building momentum could be key to their title aspirations. They certainly won’t want to lose on home soil…
For Leipzig, stopping Dries Mertens is vital. The Napoli forward has scored 15 Serie A goals so far this campaign and could shine if selected on Thursday night.
But don’t write the away side off just yet, they are no slouches either. Leipzig came close to reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League and this should be an entertaining contest.
Over 2.5 goals looks likely given the attacking nature of both sides. This could easily turn out to be the tie of the round if it lives up to the billing. 4/6 for a high-scoring first leg in Naples is a very good price.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 4/6
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*