Europa League: 3 key matchups as tournament play resumes
After a break in play of nearly five months, the Europa League resumes on Wednesday with the second leg of the Round of 16 matches. A lot has changed in the world since the first leg was played, both on and off the pitch, and it might be difficult to bet on matches where you’re not entirely sure what to expect. Thankfully, we're here to give you some insight into a few of the closer matchups that will be taking place this week.
While the matches after this round will be played in various stadiums around Germany, these second-leg matches (with the exception of two, which we will get to) are being played in home stadiums, albeit behind closed doors. As such, the usual Europa League issues of travel and familiarity of the surroundings do come into play. However, with domestic leagues all completed, rotation no longer plays a factor in team selection, so keep that in mind as you place your wagers.
|FC Copenhagen||Draw||Istanbul Basaksehir|
American fans of European soccer may not recognize the name Istanbul Basaksehir, but they will be familiar with the names of Demba Ba, Gael Clichy, Robinho, and Martin Skrtel, as all four former Premier League regulars feature for the newest Turkish Super Lig champions.
The visitors come in with a slim 1-0 lead on aggregate thanks to a late penalty in the first leg, but they have been impressive this season on the road. They have won matches already twice in Germany this season with a 2-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach and a 3-0 victory at Wolfsburg, and they will look to defeat a Copenhagen team that has been poor since the restart. Prior to winning their final two contests, the Danish side took just two points from six matches and finished 14 points behind the league champions.
Basaksehir are the better side, and they are in better form. This holds especially true on the road, where they lost just four times in their seventeen away matches in the league. However, they tend to leak goals on the road, as both teams found the scoresheet in eleven of those matches. Bank for both teams to find the back of the net, but bet on Basaksehir being the side that advances into the next round.
Free Picks: Istanbul Basaksehir ML (+165); Both teams to score (-110)
While Shakhtar are in a very strong position to advance thanks to their two away goals, this match is quite intriguing and should see plenty of goals. Their first leg matchup saw three goals scored, but each team also missed a penalty in the match. Wolfsburg has struggled a bit defensively since the restart, ending the season with a 4-0 defeat to Bayern and keeping a clean sheet just once in their nine matches post-break. On the offensive end, they have firepower to spare, and they have scored in all nine of their Europa League matches thus far. They will need to continue that trend to have any hope of advancing.
Shakhtar cruised to a league title, and have been beaten just twice on home soil this year: by Atalanta and Manchester City in the Champions League. They finished their league campaign with seven wins and two draws in their final nine contests, and their attack is led by in-form Junior Moraes, who opened the scoring in the first leg and has scored 23 goals in all contests this season.
Wolfsburg have had a month off since the end of the Bundesliga season, and although they recently played a friendly with RB Leipzig, they will likely be a bit rusty and their defensive woes will be exposed. They will put up a fight, but Shakhtar should continue to roll at home. Look for Moraes to find the scoresheet yet again.
Free Picks: Shakhtar ML (+190), Junior Moraes to score anytime (+140)
When Italy and Spain were hit hard by COVID-19, they suspended all matches. As such, Sevilla and Roma will be playing a single-leg fixture to determine who advances to the next round (along with Inter Milan and Getafe). As such, unlike the other matches we’ve covered, this match will be played in Germany.
Sevilla won this competition three straight seasons in the mid 2010s, and they will look to win hardware again this season. They have not tasted defeat since early February, now having gone 17 straight matches without losing. However, they have drawn their last three matches in Europa League, with each one seeing fewer than three goals scored. They have not played in more than two weeks and should be well rested for this match.
Roma come into the match on a hot streak as well, winning their last four Serie A matches after a 3-1 win at Juventus to end the season on Saturday. The short turnaround may be a problem for them, especially with defender Chris Smalling returning to Manchester United as his loan deal expired. Like Sevilla, they have had issues with teams across the Mediterranean, having won just once in their last seven matches against Spanish teams.
Look for this one to be cagey early, but Sevilla’s rest and Roma’s question marks at the back should allow the Spanish side to win in regulation. I would not be surprised to see 0-0 at halftime, so wagering that the second half will be the half with more goals is a smart play here.