Mark O’Haire’s Europa League Tips – ThursdayStats
Dortmund v Liverpool
Two Bundesliga titles and a Champions League silver medal across seven successful years, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is preparing for an emotional return to Dortmund on Thursday night in the Europa League.
Borussia Dortmund v Liverpool, Thursday 7th April 2016, 20.05, BT Sport Europe
‘Kloppo’ guided Die Schwarzgelben to an outstanding 180/319 (56%) victories, including a wonderful 96/155 (62%) at the Westfalenstadion. But the former BVB head is now attempting to plot his old lover’s downfall.
Liverpool’s aim and objective before arriving in Germany is surely to remain in the tie ahead of the second leg at Anfield in eight days’ time. However, achieving such a feat will be easier said than done with the Merseysiders a model of inconsistency.
There’s an argument that suggests Klopp’s Liverpool fare well against the Premier League’s elite; Manchester City were taken to penalties in the Capital One Cup final and seen off impressively in both league fixtures, Manchester United comfortably dispatched over two Europa League legs, Chelsea swatted aside at Stamford Bridge, Spurs held to a draw at White Hart Lane. And although the Reds were beaten in Leicester, they do account for one of the Foxes’ two Premier League losses this term.
But none of the current English crop can compete with Dortmund’s 2015/16 exploits. Thomas Tuchel has expanded on Klopp’s excellent foundations and built a Die Schwarzgelben side that’s given Bayern Munich a real run for their money in the Bundesliga.
Trailing the table-toppers by only five points, BVB have also booked their place in the DFB Pokal semi-finals and deservedly taken the title of Europa League outright favourites following a phenomenal four-match winning spree against both Porto and Spurs in the knockout rounds; the four victories achieved by an aggregate margin of 8-2 (5-0 at home). Pow.
The hosts have W19-D2-L1 at the Westfalenstadion this season, scoring at least twice on 19 occasions.
The only fixture they lost was in their final Europa League group game against PAOK when qualification was already assured. And taking 2016 in isolation, Dortmund have W14-D2-L0, keeping their sheets clean in 10 of those 16 fixtures.
BVB’s glittering CV doesn’t end there, either. Bayern were held to a draw in Dortmund and Die Schwarzgelben have seen off all other top-half Bundesliga teams as hosts; all four of their home successes against top-six opponents have been delivered by a margin of two goals or more, as were each of their last three Europa League outings in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Several players were rested for Saturday’s cat-and-mouse 3-2 success over Werder Bremen but Tuchel’s expected to have an almost fully fit squad at his disposal for Thursday night’s encounter as Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels and Sokratis have all returned to training.
With the hosts’ much-trumpeted attack plundering well over 100 goals this season and featuring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus in a fearsome front-three, you do wonder how Liverpool’s sketchy backline will cope.
The visitors have only shipped six goals in their past 12 Europa League matches with their most recent six featuring just six goals in total. Indeed, nine of the Merseysiders’ 10 continental clashes in 2015/16 have failed to break the Over 2.5 Goals barrier with three of their five away days producing fewer than three goals.
Liverpool have W4-D8-L7 on their Europa League travels since 2009/10 and although they remain unbeaten in this season’s competition, Thursday night’s encounter is arguably their toughest test of this term. It’s also an examination I don’t expect the Reds to pass.
Dortmund have recorded clean sheets in six of their past eight games as hosts and nine of their 16 matches in 2016 have failed to feature more than two goals. So with seven of Liverpool’s 10 losses across all competitions arriving ‘to nil’, a repeat scenario isn’t beyond the realms of possibilities.
But credit to the Reds, playmaker Philippe Coutinho, fully fit Daniel Sturridge and in-form Roberto Firmino have impressed in recent weeks so I’ll cover the potential of an away goal by backing Dortmund to win and Under 3.5 Goals at 13/10 as well as having a bite on the 17/4 offered on the Germans overcoming a -1 handicap hurdle.
Dortmund to win and Under 3.5 Goals @ 13/10
Dortmund -1 Handicap @ 17/4
Athletic Bilbao v Sevilla, Thursday 7th April 2016, 20.05, BT Sport 2
La Liga has produced 14 of the past 40 Champions League quarter-finalists and in seven of the past 12 seasons, a Spanish side has taken Europa League honours. In 2015/16, three of the final eight sides in Europe’s secondary competition are from the continent’s most competitive league.
So there was a strong possibility that two of La Liga’s finest would be drawn together and unluckily for Athletic Bilbao, it’s the second successive round in which they’ve been pitted against a fellow Spanish outfit. The Basques dusted Valencia off and will now be looking to exert first leg dominance when Sevilla arrive.
La Liga clubs take their Europa League commitments seriously but this contest has taken on extra significance in the past three weeks, as the duo have dropped off the pace in domestic duties. Neither club look capable of chasing down fourth-placed Villarreal so claiming Europa League glory appears there only opportunity of playing Champions League football next season.
Athletic have seen off Sevilla in each of the past five head-to-heads at San Mames but not since 2009’s Copa del Rey duels have the pair met in cup competition. The two teams are locked together, level on 48 points in the league and so another tight encounter looks on the cards.
Ernesto Valverde’s hosts have picked up three consecutive victories on home soil and have avoided defeat in each of their last seven contests with European opposition (W5-D2-L0) in the Basque Country. In Aritz Aduriz, Athletic also boast the competition’s top goalscorer (8).
The return of lively young forward Inaki Williams has given the offensive output another edge but the long-term injury to key defensive lynchpin Aymeric Laporte has hurt Bilbao’s backline. With only two clean sheets in 11, Les Leones’ look vulnerable to conceding.
Sevilla saw their astonishing 17-match winning home streak ended by Real Sociedad on Sunday and it’s their Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan form that’s been Los Nervionenses’ saving grace this season. Incredibly, the visitors are winless in 20 La Liga and European away fixtures this term.
The Andalusians have W0-D9-L6 in league football and W0-D1-L4 on their continental travels. Unai Emery’s men lost all three of their away Champions League ties before returning a 1-0 loss in Molde and a 0-0 draw in Basel after dropping down to Europa League duty.
But Emery’s become accustomed to negotiating knockout football having guided Sevilla to back-to-back Europa League titles. And although the aforementioned results are worrisome for punters looking for a pro-Sevilla angle, there are crumbs of comfort.
Marco Andreolli is the visitors’ only injury absentee with Yevhen Konoplyanka expected to be given a starting berth on the flanks. The guest have suffered just four reverses in 23 and can also call upon an impressive strike-rate when visiting La Liga opposition since 2013/14.
The Andalusians have notched in 18/26 (69%) of trips to top-half teams, shutting out their hosts on only 4/26 (15%) occasions.
Unsurprisingly, 17/26 (65%) of those fixtures featured winning Both Teams To Score bets.
Even 13 of their 14 head-to-heads with Barcelona and Real Madrid have proven profitable for BTTS backers.
I’ve already touched on Athletic’s haphazard clean sheet record and the fact Laporte is absent, but their own returns when welcoming top-half La Liga clubs also pushes us towards a Both Teams To Score bet at 3/4.
Les Leones have netted in 20/24 (83%) outings when welcoming Spain’s elite, recording 7/24 (29%) clean sheets and churning out 15/24 (63%) BTTS bets.
With the two teams landing successful Both Teams To Score selections in this spot above the 62% mark, the implied odds of a repeat are closer to 4/7 than the 3/4 offered, making it a value option.
Both Teams To Score @ 3/4
*Prices correct at time of publication