Mark O’Haire’s Europa League Tips – Thursday’s Matches
Is Brendan Rodgers’ job at risk? Back-to-back Premier League defeats have put the Liverpool boss under fierce pressure.
Bordeaux v Liverpool, Thursday 17 September 2015, 18.00, BT Sport Europe
There’s been keen interest in backing the Reds manager to be the next top-flight manager to leave his post in the past few days. Can he afford to not take Thursday’s Europa League tie seriously?
Perhaps. The likelihood is Rodgers will ring the changes to his Liverpool side as they make the journey to the south-west of France. That means the likes of Divock Origi, Mahamdou Sakho, Danny Ings and Adam Bogdan should get the chance to impress but it certainly shouldn’t fill punters with confidence considering the visitors are 29/20 shots to open their continental account with maximum points.
Losing 3-1 to arch-rivals Manchester United is heartbreaking but putting in such a limp, lifeless and directionless display is almost unforgivable. Throw in the garbage of a convincing home defeat to West Ham and you can understand why a decent section of Reds support are wishing upon a change at Anfield.
Liverpool have won this competition on three occasions but with a non-functioning defence and wayward attack that’s managed a paltry three goals in five Premier League appearances, can you really trust the Reds? I certainly can’t and I’d like to think that belief is backed up by their uninspiring return on the road in European competitions.
Liverpool have failed to record a win in six of their last 17 away continental clashes since 2010/11.
Although Willy Sagnol’s Bordeaux have been hit by a glut of injuries, Les Girondins boast an excellent record on home soil. The hosts have suffered just three Ligue 1 losses in 25 starts when entertaining and bagged an outstanding 13 wins from 16 home fixtures in Europe since 2009/10.
Bordeaux won three of their four qualifying matches to reach the group-stages and came away from PSG with a creditable point on Friday night. Nantes were seen off 2-0 at their Nouveau Stade Bordeaux base previously whilst fellow French high-flyers Lille and St Etienne were held to draws.
That injury list includes Cheick Diabate, Jaroslav Plasil, Diego Contento, Gregory Sertic and Ludovic Sane but Diego Rolan is back in contention to start up top alongside youngster Enzo Crivelli and with Whabi Khazzri and Henri Saivet pulling the strings, Sagnol’s side ought not to be dismissed.
What’s the bet then? I don’t think you can go wrong with a play at 11/10 on Bordeaux in the Draw No Bet. I’d be surprised if Liverpool pocketed the points and with the draw onside, I reckon the French outfit are capable of piling more misery on poor Brendan.
Bordeaux Draw No Bet @ 11/10
Ajax v Celtic, Thursday 17 September 2015, 18.00, BT Sport 2
Celtic are stuttering. Having lost out in arguably their biggest game(s) of the season in 2015/16, the Bhoys find themselves in the Europa League. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, the Champions League is the be-all and end-all for the Scottish champions and their gut-wrenching aggregate defeat to Malmo won’t be easily forgotten.
As well as missing out on Europe’s premier club competition for another season, Celtic have suffered in domestic action. Defeat at Aberdeen on Saturday has left Ronny Deila’s troops five points adrift of top spot with the manager firmly in the spotlight ahead of their trip to Amsterdam on Thursday night.
The Bhoys make the journey without Charlie Mulgrew and desperately need to solidify a woeful road record in continental competition. The visitors have tasted victory just twice in 15 European away matches (both in Iceland) and when excluding their opening two qualifying rounds in the Champions league, their most recent 10 read W0-D3-L7.
Celtic failed to even score in five of those seven defeats and were beaten by more than one goal on four occasions. Their Europa League return of W0-D6-L4 when playing away is just as underwhelming and in all competitions, they’ve managed a pretty pathetic W3-D2-L2 on their travels. It would take a brave man to back them in the Netherlands this midweek.
Last season’s departed defensive rocks Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer have left big holes at the back and with Mulgrew’s absence thrown into the equation, the Bhoys chances look a little bleak. Although 4/5 is perhaps a little skinnier than I’d have hoped, Ajax look a decent bet to heap more unwanted focus onto Deila’s flailing side.
The hosts had to come from two goals down to take a point at Twente last weekend but still sit pretty at the top of the Eredivisie (W4-D1-L0). Frank de Boer’s charges were well beaten to the Dutch title in 2014/15 and having exited the Champions League to Rapid Vienna, the Dutch legend had to fend off plenty of media criticism.
Since the Vienna setback, the Sons of the Gods have avoided defeat in six, keeping five clean sheets. And fourteen goals in five Eredivisie outings suggest they won’t have a problem finding the back of the net against an understrength Celtic defence. Netherlands Under-21 international Anwar El Ghazi has been receiving rave reviews for his new season performances and could easily hack up.
At the Amsterdam Arena, Ajax tend to be tough opponents too. The Dutch masters hold a W6-D2-L2 return in home European games – the vast majority of which were in the Champions League. As hosts, they’ve won their last three games ‘to nil’ and also shutout their visitors out in six of their past seven European victories at the AA. An Ajax win ‘to nil’ can be snapped up at 21/10.
Ajax To Win @ 4/5
Ajax To Win To Nil @ 21/10
Tottenham v Qarabag, Thursday 17 September 2015, 20.05, BT Sport Europe
Tottenham fans dismiss the Europa League as a non-event. It’s an unwanted distraction and manager Mauricio Pochettino’s unlikely to give it his full and undivided attention on Thursday night. As well as being drawn in a torturous Group J alongside Anderlecht, Monaco and this week’s opposition Qarabag, the North London club have a real make-or-break seven days ahead.
Spurs have a tough match against Crystal Palace on Sunday, followed by a crunch Capital One Cup tie against Arsenal and a league game against Manchester City the week after. Pochettino just hasn’t the strength in depth to be fielding the same XI for all and a degree of rotation will be employed against the dangerous Azerbaijan league champions at White Hart Lane.
It’s been a policy that’s paid dividends for the capital club in previous seasons, especially at their London home. Spurs might be winless at White Hart Lane in 2015/16 but they can call upon an outstanding W12-D4-L1 home record in the Europa League since 2012/13. Taking group-stage games alone, they’ve bagged a marvellous W7-D2-L0 return.
However, the likes of Maribor, Panathinaikos, Sheriff, and Asteras Tripolis all have scored in those seven Tottenham victories at WHL and a second-string Spurs side should give the visitors an opportunity or two to notch in a home win. A Tottenham win and Both Teams To Score stands out at 12/5.
Qarabag may face an unenviable 4,000km trip from Baku but the three-time Azerbaijan champions are not to be underestimated as they have won three of their last five European away games, including victory at last season’s eventual finalists Dnipro. Indeed, they’ve netted in 11 of their last 12 Europa League away games.
Gurban Gurbanov’s men were narrowly edged out by Celtic 1-0 in their Champions League qualifier but they bounced back to beat Young Boys to qualify for the Europa and make the long journey unbeaten in seven. They do tend to be defensively strong and matches have a knack of being low-scoring.
Six of Qarabag’s last eight European outings have featured two goals or fewer with seven of their previous 10 in all competitions also banking in the Under 2.5 Goals column. At least one team has failed to score in eight of those 10 but with Spurs unperturbed by the fixture and fielding a much-changed XI, I’d like to think this showdown could go against the grain.
Tottenham To Win and Both Teams To Score @ 12/5
*Prices correct at time of publication