Football odds expert Dan Roebuck sums up who his money’s on in the Europa League…
As secondary competitions go, the Europa League has found itself first in the queue for punters this season.
The trends, especially concerning the English representatives, have been easy to spot: side with Arsenal (a return on investment of 64 per cent) and against Everton (ROI of 147 per cent). Will it continue to be this easy as we look forward to matchday four? Probably.
Lyon v Everton | 2 Nov 18:00
Everton To Flounder In Lyon’s Den
Of those two Premier League clubs, Everton are first up, with an early kick-off away at Lyon.
Les Gones won the reverse fixture a fortnight ago – a fractious encounter on Merseyside when some in the Gwladys Street End took matters into their own hands after a flare-up on the pitch involving Ashley Williams and a clutch of Lyon personnel – and are favourites at 3/5 to complete the double.
Then, David Unsworth wasn’t in charge, but he might have been quietly pleased about the attitude of some of the players he is now overseeing, as it summed up the approach of the ‘Dogs of War’ Goodison Park team he played in during the mid-nineties.
— Everton (@Everton) October 31, 2017
In two matches as caretaker boss, Unsworth has witnessed two defeats, and while he said he was ‘proud of the performance’ of his charges after they were beaten by Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, the loss at Leicester suggests there is no quick fix for Everton.
A trip to the Groupama Stadium is surely the last thing they need.
Bruno Génésio’s side have lost just once this season – 2-0 away at Paris St Germain – and have won their last four games, scoring 12 goals in the process.
Mariano Diaz – a bit part player at Real Madrid last term – has replaced Alex Lacazette up front, netting eight times in 11 Ligue Un games, while Nabil Fekir can boast nine goals and four assists in domestic competition.
Given Lyon play away at St Ettienne at the weekend they both might not start, so stay close to the team news ahead of kick-off before making your investments.
Whoever makes the opening line-up, though, should be good enough to see off an Everton side that have lost four on the spin and haven’t tasted victory six weeks.
Arsenal v Crvena Zvezda | 2 Nov 20:05
Gunners To Extend Europa League Adventure
Arsenal host Crvena Zvezda at the Emirates Stadium and, while no team has used more players (22) than Arsene Wenger in this season’s Europa League, the Gunners starting eleven is fairly predictable.
The Arsenal manager has rotated brilliantly this season and, although I didn’t think they were particularly impressive in Belgrade in the reverse fixture (a 1-0 win), they rarely looked in trouble.
On home turf they should defeat the Serbian side.
They will surely pick up the three points against Vladan Milojević’s men, who have the dubious record of the lowest goalscoring conversion rate (4.3 per cent) of teams to score more than once in this year’s competition.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) October 29, 2017
Oliver Giroud is almost certain to start for the hosts and, given the Frenchman has netted seven goals in his last eight starts in Europe for the North Londoners, he should be backed to grab the first goal at 3/1 and to score at any time at 4/5.
If you do want to oppose the Gunners, then you should side with Richmond Boakye to pierce the home defence (21/2 for the first goal and 16/5 anytime).
The Ghanaian has scored the first goal for Crvena Zvezda in his two starts since the first game between these two clubs and has registered an incredible 16 goals for club and country this term.
Those that like a long-term punt could do worse than back Arsenal to win the Europa League at 6/1.
The Gunners are joint-favourites with AC Milan but are much better value than the Rossoneri, who like most Italian teams do not take this competition seriously.
If Arsenal falls off the pace in the Premier League over the winter months – which could easily happen – then their focus could well be on the only realistic route back in the Champions League, which is, of course, by being successful in the Europa League.
That’s exactly what Manchester United did last season, and it would be no surprise if Arsenal took a similar path this term.