Mark O’Haire’s Europa League Tips – Thursday


Man Utd v Liverpool

Match Betting

Manchester United’s sorry season is hanging by a thread.

Manchester United v Liverpool, Thursday 17th March 2016, 20.05, BT Sport Europe
With the Red Devils already well out of contention for the Premier League – a full 16 points adrift of pacesetters Leicester – Louis van Gaal’s group could also exit Europe and the FA Cup in the coming seven days.

Europa League progression has been chalked up at 8/1 after a turgid effort in their first leg encounter with rivals Liverpool last week; United’s comprehensive 2-0 defeat means they must score at least twice to level the tie but the concession of a goal would need the hosts requiring a minimum of four to keep their continental dreams alive.

In truth, last week’s Anfield defeat could and should have been by more but for another stellar display between the sticks from David de Gea. Throw in United’s damaging defeat to West Brom in the days leading up to the first leg, plus the need for a late equaliser to hold West Ham to an FA Cup draw on Sunday, and it’s fair to say, the Red Devils aren’t in great nick.

LVG’s men have scored just twice in their last four games but do welcome back Jesse Lingard from suspension, whilst Juan Mata returns after missing the weekend’s match. Bastian Schweinsteiger is in line for a first start since January.

As the odds suggest, turning this tie around won’t be easy. Although United have only been beaten twice at Old Trafford all season, performances on the whole have been limp, directionless and passive. With the hosts’ attack dysfunctional, keeping a clean sheet is likely to be van Gaal’s priory.

Man Utd have recorded W12-D0-L2 in their last 14 home encounters with their rivals from Merseyside but it’s true that the Red Devils have only managed a victory by a margin of two goals just twice in 17 domestic dates. On Premier League duty, van Gaal’s troops have won by more than a solitary goal on just five occasions in 29.

So if my assumption is correct and the Dutch boss will approach this contest pragmatically before turning on the turbo,

returning to our tried-and-trusted formula of backing a half-time draw at Old Trafford appeals, specifically the 0-0 correct score.

A chunky 12 of the last 16 fixtures across all competitions at Old Trafford have been goalless at the interval and a repeat can be snapped up at 8/5 quotes.

Liverpool knew a first leg clean sheet was vital in keeping their quarter-final prospects alive and Jurgen Klopp’s charges will now be well aware that a single goal here would all but end United’s chances.

The Reds will field their dynamic and in-form front three of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino once more and should build their approach around their furious pressing game and incisive counter-attacks.

Klopp has claimed they’ll go on the offence, knowing that precious goal could prove so decisive and whilst Liverpool can be lethal on the break, I don’t expect United to go chasing until the second-half, leaving us with a potential cat-and-mouse style first 45 minutes.

Confidence is clearly high in the Anfield camp and another in-your-face attitude should stand the guests in good stead for claiming the result they require to progress to the last-eight.

The Merseysiders have enjoyed the week off since the first leg so should be fully refreshed and although the visitors have struggled on the road all season, they head to United on the back of a three-match winning streak since running Man City close in the Capital One Cup final.

And although this technically isn’t a European match, it’s worth noting that 17 of Liverpool’s last 19 away matches in European competition have fallen below the 2.5 goals barrier, 14/19 even featuring fewer than two goals. So our chances of landing another goalless opening seems stronger than the 8/5 on offer.

Recommended Bet:
0-0 Half-Time Correct Score (8/5)

Tottenham v Dortmund, Thursday 17th March 2016, 20.05, BT Sport 2
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino caused widespread consternation when opting to field a second string side in Dortmund last week, clearly prioritising the Lilywhites’ Premier League fixture with no-hopers Aston Villa.

The Londoners comfortably dispatched the league’s bottom side on Sunday but many Spurs supporters were understandably frustrated and upset by the selection in Germany. Even Dortmund fans and German media outlets were left scratching their heads over Pochettino’s decision.

Spurs were totally overrun from the first whistle at Signal Iduna Park and were probably a touch fortunate to escape with only a 3-0 defeat. With the tie looking as good as over, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the hosts once again field a weakened XI.

Only one side in Europa League history (Valencia in 2014) have overturned a 3-0 first leg deficit in the knockout rounds and although the capital club can boast a strong W16-D4-L1 record at White Hart Lane in this competition since 2012/13, I’ve no interest at all in keeping Tottenham onside.

The Premier League is arguably at its weakest point in recent years and the pre-match odds reflect that with the Bundesliga’s second-best marked up as 6/5 favourites to seal their route to the quarter-finals with a win.

Thomas Tuchel’s troops have been awesome since the winter break and have managed to combine outstanding defensive efficiency alongside their lightning-quick counter-attacks. BVB have W11-D2-L0 since Christmas, recorded 10 clean sheets, including just shipping one goal in nine.

Having a fearsome front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to lead the offence always gives the Black & Yellows a major shout but I’m still unwilling to invest in 6/5 quotes here considering the circumstances surrounding the tie now.

Instead, a goals route looks far more stable.

A huge 17 of Spurs’ last 20 when welcoming European opposition have featured Over 2.5 Goals with both sides scoring in 15.

Dortmund have only failed to net in two of their last 27 away fixtures and when Aubameyang, Reus and Mkhitaryan have started this season, 10 of their 15 matches produced four or more goals.

I’ll take the 8/11 on offer for Over 2.5 Goals collecting once more.

Recommended Bet:
Over 2.5 Goals (8/11)

*Prices correct at time of publication