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.
Tournament favourites Chelsea picked up a well-deserved 1-0 win at Slavia Prague last week and the Blues are now red-hot favourites to proceed to the Europa League semi-finals. Maurizio Sarri’s men will be keen to complete the job at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Arsenal head to Italy with a two-goal aggregate advantage after an impressive outing in the first leg of their mouthwatering match-up with Napoli. I’m anticipating a lively response from the Serie A side at the Stadio San Paolo.
Expect A Blues Cruise Vs Slavia
Chelsea made seven changes for their trip to Slavia Prague last week and came away with a 1-0 success. The Blues struggled to find any rhythm for large spells but grew into the game after Eden Hazard was introduced off the bench just before the hour mark. And Marcos Alonso’s late goal secured victory for the visitors in Czech Republic.
It wasn’t a vintage European performance from the 2013 Europa League winners. The Londoners were sloppy in possession; Willian hit the crossbar in the first half, but it took until the 59th minute for Antonio Rudiger to register their first shot on-target, moments after Hazard came on. The Belgian was influential as Chelsea played with more intensity.
Slavia showed enough ability to suggest this tie isn’t dead and buried, although overturning a deficit at Stamford Bridge is almost an impossible job for the guests. Chelsea have claimed top honours in 21 of 28 matches here across all competitions this season, silencing the away side in 14 of those triumphs, including four from five in Europe.
The Blues have shut out eight of their past 10 visitors to Stamford Bridge and will fancy their prospects of enhancing that record against a Slavia side that’s wobbling in their domestic title race. The Prague club failed to overcome city rivals Sparta at the weekend, a result that saw their advantage at the top of the Czech table reduced to five points.
Jindrich Trpisovsky’s men have now won just twice in five fixtures, both of which came against the bottom-two teams back home. Slavia may have key midfield man Tomas Soucek available again, but their return of three victories in 14 away in Europe leaves a lot to be desired, as does Czech teams’ efforts of W0-D3-L15 when travelling to England this century.
Maurizio Sarri’s men are outsiders in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League, meaning the Europa League takes on extra significance.
Without a game until Monday night against Burnley here, I’d anticipate seeing a strong performance from the Blues and they’re well capable of overcoming a -1.5 Asian Handicap hurdle at 2.16 quotes.
Gunners To Come Under Napoli Fire
Arsenal’s Europa League quarter-final tie with Napoli is “still 50-50” according to Gunners boss Unai Emery, despite his side winning the first leg 2-0 at Emirates Stadium. Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring before Lucas Torreira’s shot deflected past goalkeeper Alex Meret to put the hosts in charge before the half-four mark last week.
The only downside of an impressive Arsenal performance is that they did not win by more than two goals to kill the tie off. And there’s enough evidence to suggest the Gunners could come under serious fire from a Napoli side that’s eager to make their mark at the Stadio San Paolo on Thursday evening.
Arsenal’s form outside of their capital base is an obvious concern. Since the start of December, Emery’s outfit have W3-D3-L7 on their travels, including five defeats from their last eight encounters. Even Monday night’s triumph at Watford came via good fortune with a goalkeeping howler and early red card benefiting the Gunners at Vicarage Road.
English teams have a W3-D4-L11 record at Italian sides in the Europa League since 2001/02, with eight of those defeats arriving via a margin of two goals or more. In knockout rounds alone, that record reads seven losses in nine, and with Arsenal finishing second-best in 10 of their most recent 16 away knockout fixtures, I’m happy to oppose them here.
BATE Borisov and Rennes have already taken top honours when welcoming the Gunners in this competition’s knockout rounds this season and Napoli are rarely overawed in front of their passionate San Paolo support. The Partenopei have W16-D5-L1 here in 2018/19, beating Liverpool and holding PSG during the Champions League group stage.
Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti’s troops are unbeaten at home in Europe this season (W4-D1-L0), tanking an impressive RB Salzburg side 3-0 in the previous round as hosts. Meanwhile, clubs that suffered a 2-0 reverse in the first leg of a Europa League tie on their travels have bagged W12-D7-L3 in the return tie since 2010/11, enhancing our case to support Napoli.
The hosts can be backed at 1.88 with a -0.75 Asian Handicap, an appealing price this midweek.
- Chelsea -1.5 – 2 units @ 2.16
- Napoli -0.75 – 2 units @ 1.88