Mark O'Haire - Thursday Night Europa League Value-Hunting

9 min

European football fanatic Mark O’Haire has delved into Thursday night’s Europa League quarter-finals to share his best bets in the ties involving Premier League interest.

Premier League pair Arsenal and Chelsea have negotiated a path to the Europa League quarter-finals. The duo are involved in a fierce battle for a top-four finish domestically and will be aware that clinching this continental crown would seal a place in next season’s Champions League, thus ensuring a successful season under new management.

Tournament favourites Chelsea have been handed arguably the kindest last-eight opponents but face a tricky trip to Prague on Thursday night, whilst Arsenal entertain Napoli at the Emirates in what’s expected to be a hum-dinger. So where’s the value?

Home Comforts Key For Gunners

Arsenal’s Jekyll & Hyde campaign showed no sign of abating at the weekend as the Gunners limped to another rotten road effort at Everton. Unai Emery’s men suffered a damaging Goodison Park defeat to lose their grip on a place in the Premier League’s top four positions.

Now Arsenal must switch focus to the Europa League and the Gunners will be well aware that a positive performance on Thursday night in the first leg of this tie is key if the capital club are to progress to the final four.

Like their hosts, Napoli have tended to produce their strongest suits in their intimidating Stadio San Paolo backyard. Indeed, the Partenopei have been less convincing outside of Naples, as their recent W4-D3-L5 road record will testify with Liverpool, Inter Milan, AC Milan and RB Salzburg all taking top honours when hosting Carlo Ancelotti’s charges.

Serie A sides have produced only three Europa League semi-finalists over the past 10 campaigns and Napoli arrive in London on the back of two concerning displays. On Sunday, the Partenopei were held by Genoa despite playing against 10 men for over 30 minutes, and that followed hot on the heels of a laboured 1-1 draw with relegation-haunted Empoli.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli side have struggled on away days on the continent this season.

The visitors have W4-D3-L3 away at sides in 11th and above domestically, been beaten in all three league outings against Juventus and Inter, whilst Italian clubs are now just W3-D5-L10 when travelling to English shores in Europe’s second-tier tournament since 2001/02, suggesting there’s scope to oppose the Naples outfit on Thursday night.

Arsenal have triumphed in 13 of their last 15 fixtures at the Emirates, including toppling the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United during that sample. The Gunners have W6-D2-L0 when hosting Europa League opposition since last March, scoring at least three times in five of those victories too.

Neither team are renowned for their defensive stability and an open, exciting encounter is expected at the Emirates but the hosts command respect in the markets here and should be supported with a +0 start on the Asian Handicap line at 1.78.

Goals On The Agenda In Prague

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has heavily rotated his squad for Europa League duty this season with unerring success. The Blues have bagged nine wins from 10 unbeaten continental clashes in 2018/19, notching 19 goals across their last six outings, including striking eight times against Dynamo Kiev in the Last 16.

With a massive match-up against Liverpool at Anfield to focus on this weekend, plus the effects of Monday night’s meeting with West Ham still fresh in the legs, the Chelsea supremo is again expected to make widespread changes in the Czech Republic capital on Thursday evening.

The likes of Willian, Pedro, Olivier Giroud, Ross Barkley, Andreas Christensen, Mateo Kovacic, Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso will all be hoping for recalls and French hitman Giroud is one to keep an eye. The World Cup winner is the Europa League’s top scorer this term after plundering nine goals from his last seven matches.

Eden Hazard’s inclusion would of course tip the balance in Chelsea’s favour, and the Premier League outfit remain fair odds-on favourites to seal the deal in Prague. However, the Blues’ recent W7-D2-L7 run on the road across all competitions leaves a lot to be desired; especially as the West Londoners have recorded just two clean sheets in that sequence.

Will Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri start Eden Hazard in this one or will he continue to rotate?

MOL Vidi, Malmo, Fulham and Cardiff have all found the net at home to Chelsea, which should encourage a Slavia Prague side that’s made it to the last eight of the competition for the first time since 2000 after a memorable two-legged tie against Europa League specialists Sevilla in the Last 16.

A 119th-minute goal in the second leg here at the Sinobo Stadium sent Slavia into the quarter-finals, knocking out five-time champions Sevilla following a thrilling tie that saw 11 goals in total. And it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Czechs’ encounter with Chelsea following a similar pattern with goals on the agenda.

A huge 27 of 36 Europa League quarter-final first legs since 2009/10 have seen both sides score, and there’s appeal in supporting a repeat. Slavia have netted an average of 3.20 goals since mid-February – highlighting their attacking threat – although a better value bet would be to support Over 2.5 Goals at a 1.95. All bar five of Chelsea’s most recent 19 away days across all competitions have crossed the Over 2.5 Goals barrier.

Recommended Bets

  • Arsenal +0 Asian Handicap units @ 1.78
  • Over 2.5 Goals in Slavia Prague v Chelsea 2 units @ 1.95