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Dan Roebuck, football odds expert, previews this one…
For Arsenal, the Europa League has hardly been the inconvenience touted last May, when the Gunners dropped from the top table of continental competition for the first time in 21 years.
Arsene Wenger has rotated his squad brilliantly, and his side, now 5/1 clear favourites to lift the trophy in Lyon, have qualified for the knockout stages with two games to spare.
For Everton, the only thing rotating was the Goodison Park exit door as Ronald Koeman spun out of the club, in no small part, you feel, due a run of just one point in four matches in the Europa League – they now cannot progress.
The contrasting fortunes of the English clubs serves notice to punters of just how hard this competition can be to predict. However, that’s not to say there isn’t any value ahead of matchday five.
1. FC Köln v Arsenal Preview | 23 November 18:00
Cologne’s return to European football for the first time in a generation was marked by 20,000 of their supporters bringing some parts of central London to a standstill. The chaos outside the Emirates Stadium was only matched inside by the ill-prepared visiting defence, who conceded three times after going in front to lose 3-1.
The German club are in disarray on the pitch and can boast just three wins in 18 games in all competitions this term, a run that has seen them slip to the bottom of the Bundesliga and the foot of Group H of the Europa League – even at 8/5 to win at the RheinEnergieStadion they make little appeal.
Peter Stöger’s side gave themselves hope of making the knockouts stages with a 5-2 home success over BATE Borisov last time out, but they remain 2/1 to progress and, in truth, this might be the final time a European audience gets to see Hennes The Goat (Cologne’s mascot) this year.
Arsenal, who are fair value at 13/8, were perhaps fortunate to draw with Red Star Belgrade in their last game but should have enough quality to defeat a Cologne team that have failed to score on 10 occasions this term.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 19, 2017
Before the injury, the England striker could boast four goals in nine games for club and country and, against a team that has registered only one home clean sheet this term, Welbeck is taken to shine.
Everton v Atalanta Preview | 23 November 20:05
Everton prepares for their home fixture against Atalanta still without a manager – Watford’s Marco Silva was the favourite to take over at time of writing, although Louis Van Gaal was also rumoured to be in the running.
Should a new man turn up in the dugout (or even in the stands) at Goodison Park they’ll be plenty who’ll make a case for backing the home side, at 23/10, citing ‘new manager bounce’, I don’t see it though.
However, having won only 1 of their 12 away European games, they are no certainties to come away from Merseyside with all three points. Those numbers don’t technically tell the correct tale, as Atalanta have been forced to play their home games at Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium this term – winning both games so far.
Hard fought point today , palace is never a easy place to go and will stay up in my opinion, our fans will brilliant as usual again ,we will keep fighting and improving to get up the table. #Toffees
— Aaron Lennon (@AaronLennon12) November 18, 2017
Everton must be better than they were at the weekend at Crystal Palace, where they owed a fortuitous point to a controversially awarded penalty, and given Atalanta’s form has dropped off – they are without a win in four games – the match market looks tricky.
The draw, at 12/5, maybe the best bet. Everton have the third worst defensive record in the Europa league group stages, conceding eight goals, and haven’t kept a clean sheet in any competition for 11 games.
Atalanta have scored in 15 of 17 fixtures this season and, at 4/7, are taken to a least find the net once, while Josip Ilicic has either scored or assisted in the Italian club’s last four games in the Europa League and should be punted to score the first goal, at 7/1, and at any time, at 5/2.