The Europa League is back in our lives on Thursday evening. You all know what that means – the return of squad rotation, Thursday night football and the speculation of a ‘continental hangover’.
Arsenal and Chelsea face favourable ties after cruising through the group stage. We have the prospect of a great clash between Lazio and Sevilla and an Iberian peninsula matchup in the Portugal’s capital between Sporting and Villarreal.
Looking at 888sport’s football betting odds ahead of Thursday night, we have picked out some of the best bets from these four games.
BATE Borisov vs ARSENAL
Unai Emery rotated the Arsenal squad heavily in the group phase, giving plenty of minutes to youngsters.
We can expect more of the same here, though Emery will be wary of relaxing too much, considering that the Europa League might be Arsenal’s best route into the Champions League.
BATE Borisov finished second in Chelsea’s group, being thoroughly outclassed by Arsenal’s London rivals in both matches. They will be optimistic about an upset here, facing an Arsenal side that have been unimpressive in 2019.
The Gunners only failed to win one of their group matches, though, and have the talent to win this easily. A lot depends on the number of first-teamers that Emery names. He could prioritise this competition now, or he may protect his already injury-hit squad.
TIP: Arsenal to win @ 21/50
PREDICTED SCORE: BATE 1-3 Arsenal (Priced at 21/2 with 888sport)
LAZIO vs Sevilla
A pair of defeats to Eintracht Frankfurt left Lazio settling for second. The Italian club have won their last two league matches 1-0 to keep themselves in the competitive race for a top four spot.
Their home form has not been great however, only winning two of their last six Serie A outings in front of their own fans.
Sevilla made hard work of a favourable Europa League group stage, finishing level on points with FC Krasnodar after a couple of surprise defeats.
The Europa League specialists will be confident as they head to Italy, but they are not in good form, losing three of their last five La Liga matches to drop off the pace.
Neither team comes into this match in the best mood. Home advantage just tips the scales in Lazio’s favour.
TIP: Lazio to win or draw @ 4/11
PREDICTED SCORE: Lazio 2-0 Sevilla (Priced at 19/2 with 888sport)
Malmo vs CHELSEA
Maurizio Sarri is under severe pressure after Chelsea’s 6-0 loss to Manchester City on Sunday. The Blues are outsiders for a Premier League top four spot as it stands, and a disappointing result here will only further frustrate and already irritable fanbase.
Similarly to Arsenal, the Europa League could be Chelsea’s priority for the remainder of the campaign. Chelsea picked up 16 points in their group, but they were not at their best for several of the matches.
Malmo notched a remarkable win away to Besiktas to book their spot in this round, losing only once in their six matches. This is a mismatch in terms of resources, talent and reputation.
Chelsea should win this easily despite Sunday’s nightmare result and regardless of the team Sarri names.
Rotation is a must in this intense part of the schedule and the fans will be desperate to see starts for Ethan Ampadu, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
TIP: Chelsea to win (-1) @ 10/11
PREDICTED SCORE: Malmo 0-3 Chelsea (Priced at 8/1 with 888sport)
SPORTING LISBON vs Villarreal
Sporting Lisbon comfortably qualified from their group, picking up 13 points but finishing behind Arsenal.
Being unable to pip the Gunners left Sporting facing Villarreal, who won their group. Sporting’s form has been patchy, but they picked up an away with against Feirense at the weekend.
Villarreal overperformed in the group phase, considering their La Liga struggles. The Yellow Submarine are 19th at the moment and have not won in 10 league outings.
Draws have been the bane of their season, resulting in three league wins and only winning two group stage matches. They went unbeaten in a competitive group but face a challenge in Portugal on Thursday.
The up and downs for Sporting this season might make some cautious about backing them. Going for a double chance is a safer way to go
TIP: Sporting Lisbon to win OR draw @ 4/11
PREDICTED SCORE: Sporting 2-1 Villarreal (Priced at 8/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*