From the moment Manchester United were confirmed as Europa League participants late last season, bookmakers were fearful that the Red Devils would plough a course to the final in Stockholm.
It hasn’t been the most straightforward of journeys, but Jose Mourinho’s side have battled through to the quarter-finals. Having been quoted at 7/1 ante-post, they are now 27/20 favourites with Grosvenor Sportsbook to lift the only major trophy that has eluded them.
With the Old Trafford club’s chances of finishing in the top four of Premier League rated at 3/1, winning the Europa League is now United’s best chance of making the Champions League next season, and that’s something the bookies are dreading most.
Back Zlatan To Breach Belgian Backline | 13 April 20:05
Manchester United’s record win came in their very first European tie back in 1956, when Dennis Violet scored four goals in a 10-0 second leg success over Anderlecht. That was after a 2-0 win in Brussels, but since then United have been successful only once in three visits to the Belgian capital, losing on their two most recent trips.
Archive games in continental football aren’t the most reliable barometer for punters though, and, with Jose Mourinho’s team keenly priced at 94/100, there will be plenty of backers of the away side.
Anderlecht are 3/1 to win with the draw 5/2, but a formline through Rostov, who knocked Rene Weiler’s team out of the Champions League qualifiers before losing to United in the last round of the Europa League, would seem to suggest United are the value play.
Anderlecht fans have complained about tickets prices for the match, calling their own club officials ‘a disgrace’ for the hike in cost to attend the sell-out clash, and they’re unlikely to get any change from the visitors on the pitch either.
Cover United to win 1-0, at 6/1, and 2-0, at 17/2, with who else but Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score first (13/4) and at any time (32/25). The Swede boasts five Europa League goals this season and five in just two appearances against Anderlecht, including four in one match at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium for Paris Saint Germain in a Champions League group match back in 2013.
Ajax Too Slick For Schalke | 13 April 20:05
One of the hottest prospects in European football is set to show his quality on the continental stage, as Kasper Dolberg is likely to start for Ajax in their first leg fixture against Schalke in Amsterdam.
The Danish international, reportedly a target for both Liverpool and Manchester United, is just 7/4 to score at any time and 51/10 to net the opener. Three of Dolberg’s four goals in Europe this term have broken the deadlock – a much better percentage than in the Eredivisie this campaign (4/13).
Ajax, who are unbeaten in 11 European home games (winning their last five), are 6/4 to claim success, with the draw 9/4 and the Bundesliga outfit 37/20. Schalke have never won on Dutch turf, losing four of five, and their current run of just three wins in their last 12 games in all competitions suggests they could be found wanting.
Take Ajax to win at 6/4 with over 2.5 goals, at evens, another sensible investment given neither side are particularly tight at the back (one clean sheet between them in their last nine games combined).
Genk Good Value in Vigo | 13 April 20:05
Spanish clubs have dominated the Europa League in recent years, providing seven of the last 11 winners, but few would have predicted that this season Celta Vigo would be their sole representatives heading into the quarter-finals.
The 10th best team in La Liga, 5/9 to defeat Genk, shocked Shaktar Donetsk in the first knockout round before needing an 80th minute goal to defeat Krasnodar in the last 16 over two legs, but with a lengthy injury list they are worth taking on with the Belgians who are quoted at 5/1 – the draw is 31/10.
As many as half a dozen players could be absent from Eduardo Berizzo’s squad, including Guiseppe Rossi who was injured in the home defeat to Eibar at the weekend. The Italian, who admittedly has been used mainly as substitute recently, had just rediscovered his form in front of goal, with a hat-trick against Las Palmas.
With the club currently in dispute with the local council (Celta president Carlos Mourino claims the Galicians are being thrown out of their own ground), this could be the best time for Albert Stuivenberg’s men to cause an upset. Genk have won five of their last six, have lost only 1 of their last 13 and are unbeaten away in Europe since early November. Back the visitors to win or draw at 29/20.
Besiktas To Hold On In Lyon’s Den | 13 April 20:05
After toppling Roma in the round of 16, Lyon’s form has dipped alarmingly and, while supporters will also point to their demolition of AZ Alkmaar in the first knockout round, there appears to be chinks in the armour of Bruno Genesio’s team.
OL are 5/9 to register a first leg win over Besiktas, with the Turkish club 23/5 and the draw 16/5.
Senol Gunes’ team have proved wildly inconsistent away from home this term on the continent (they won 3-2 at Napoli in the group stages of the Champions league but then lost 6-0 in Kiev less than two months later). However, they look worth backing on the handicap in France.
Five points clear at the top of the Super Lig in Turkey, Besiktas can be backed at 37/25 with half a goal start. The Black Eagles are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions and, even with on loan striker Vincent Aboubakar suspended, are taken to at least hold their hosts. Lyon are without the ineligible Memphis Depay plus the banned Maxime Gonalons, and were beaten 4-1 at home by relegation end threatened Lorient last time out.
With Aboubakar missing, the goal scoring onus will fall on Cenk Tosun, and the former Eintracht Frankfurt junior, who has scored in four of his last six European appearances, is worth a punt at 11/5 to score at any time.