The Europa League returns this week for the last 16. There’s a blend of established names and some comparative underdogs.
Arsenal and Chelsea remain, as they balance Premier League demands with the promise of a Champions League spot from Europa League glory. The headline of the round, though, may be the tie between Eintracht Frankfurt and Inter Milan.
Struggling Villarreal have a distraction from their La Liga woes with a challenging trip to Russia to face Zenit. Ahead of Thursday’s action, here are a few thoughts and tips:
EINTRACHT FRANKFURT vs Inter Milan (5:55pm)
Eintracht Frankfurt won a thriller 3-2 against Hoffenheim at the weekend. The Bundesliga side cruised past Shakhtar Donetsk in the last round, winning 4-1 in the home leg.
The gifted front pair of Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller will fancy their chances against an Inter team who have failed to win their last two.
The Mauro Icardi mess looms over Inter as they head to Germany. Icardi has not played since 9th February. A loss to Cagliari at the weekend was less than ideal preparation for this tie, adding to a really poor run of away form.
The hosts are great value to win this at 27/20. Frankfurt have been a dominant force in the Europa League this season and this is the perfect time to face Inter.
TIP: Eintracht Frankfurt to win @ 27/20
PREDICTED SCORE: Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 Inter (Priced at 10/1 with 888sport)
Rennes vs ARSENAL (5:55pm)
Inconsistency has been an issue for Rennes all season. Hopes of entering the European race domestically have faded, though a 1-1 home draw with Marseille in their last league outing was far from disastrous.
Their clash with Nimes was postponed at the weekend to give more time to prepare for a huge clash with Arsenal.
Arsenal have staged a revival of sorts after a difficult spell earlier in the year. A good north London derby performance at the weekend was soured by a late penalty miss from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, however.
The Gabonese forward has a chance to make up for his error when he starts on Thursday evening. Unai Emery is expected to name a very strong side. Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should start. The Gunners will have too much for their hosts.
TIP: Arsenal to win @ Evens
PREDICTED SCORE: Rennes 1-2 Arsenal (Priced at 15/2 with 888sport)
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG vs Villarreal (5:55pm)
Zenit ended four straight defeats (stretching to before the winter break) when they beat Fenerbahce in the second leg of the last round.
They put an end to a poor domestic run with a 1-0 win away to Ural at the weekend. It was not their best performance, but it should have helped rebuild some confidence as they return to Europa League action.
Villarreal are in dire form in La Liga, having won four matches all season, leaving them in the relegation zone. A red card in each leg helped them past Sporting in the last round, but few will be expecting them to get a positive result in Russia on Thursday.
We know how formidable Zenit are at home. They have won all six of their Europa League home matches this season. It’s very likely they make it seven this week.
TIP: Zenit to win @ 10/11
PREDICTED SCORE: Zenit 2-0 Villarreal (Priced at 15/2 with 888sport)
CHELSEA vs Dynamo Kyiv (8:00pm)
Chelsea have improved of late, winning two London derbies last week. The Blues are one of the best options in 888sport’s football betting odds this week on the -1 handicap.
Maurizio Sarri will rotate, but is expected to name a very strong side, just as he did for the first leg against Malmo in the last round. Eden Hazard will likely be left on the bench alongside Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Dynamo Kyiv are yet to lose in 2019 (they’ve only played four matches) and have been very hard to beat in the Europa League. Their away record is impressive - the Ukrainian side will look to nick a goal through a set piece or counter-attack.
Chelsea should have too much. The west London club are 1/5 to go through over the two legs. Sarri will be eyeing a comfortable victory to avoid too much stress in the return leg.
TIP: Chelsea to win (-1) @ 4/5
PREDICTED SCORE: Chelsea 3-0 Dynamo Kyiv (Priced at 7/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*