While the Europa League doesn’t perhaps carry the same prestige as the Champions League, for Arsenal and Chelsea, it carries added importance this year.
Both clubs are struggling to break into the top-four in the Premier League meaning a win in this season’s Europa League has taken on added importance.
Here are the thoughts of our football betting expert on both their quarter final ties on Thursday evening.
Arsenal v Napoli
Of all the teams left in the draw, Napoli were surely one of the sides Unai Emery would have wanted to avoid.
The Italians were slightly unlucky not to get out of their Champions League group, having beaten Liverpool and drawing with PSG twice. They would have qualified had Alisson not produced one of the saves of the season late on in their second game against the Reds.
They come into this in good form and will be a stern test for the Gunners.
Arsenal’s defeat against Rennes in the first leg of the previous round has seemed to have kick-started their season with three wins on the bounce without conceding, before Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Everton. They are very much a work in progress, but Emery has definitely made a difference and the future outlook looks much more positive than it did when Arsene Wenger was in charge.
This is a tough one to call. These two look closely matched and for Arsenal especially, they’ll be keen to go into the second leg without an away goal against them. A draw looks the safest bet and I’ll be backing that at 12/5.
Slavia Prague v Chelsea
In contrast, this is probably the exact draw Maurizio Sarri and the Chelsea supporters wanted. Slavia Prague are Grosvenorsport.com’s 40/1 outsiders for the whole competition and look easily the worst side left in it.
While they sit top of the Czech League, the standard is significantly worse than the Premier League, so Chelsea will be fancying their chances here.
The Blues are still very hard to workout however. There are still clear signs of animosity in the side and the players are still clearly not buying into Sarri’s methods as much as he would want. Their 2-0 loss to Everton is recent evidence of the exact problems that exist at Stamford Bridge.
Their top-four aspirations looks slim and the Europa League looks the best chance Chelsea have of playing in the Champions League next season.
This should be a comfortable night for Sarri and Co though and with focus almost solely on this competition, I fancy them to win to nil at 13/8.
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