Ah Europa League Thursday’s are back and we’re not as cynical as the rest here at Paddy Power because we embrace the madness that it brings.
Already we have seen English sides West Ham and Southampton get knocked out by teams your mates have never heard of, in the form of Astra Giurgiu of Romania and Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva respectively – so anything can bloody happen in this competition!
Things kick up a notch in tonight’s Round of 32 ties though as not only is the tournament down to a knockout format, but it also includes eight teams who’ve dropped in from the Champions League.
So with some cracking contests on the way tonight, we’ve decided to put together a five-team acca that could deliver at over 23/1 for our European football loving punters and Man United and Spurs are in it too!
It must feel like Groundhog Day for Spurs supporters to be watching their side back in action on Thursday nights, but without the charm of Bill Murray of course.
However, this is what you get when you have an utterly miserable Champions League campaign!
Luckily for Mauricio Pochettino’s men the draw has been more than kind to them, as Belgian mid-table outfit Gent came out of the hat. Tottenham may have lost their last away fixture to Liverpool, but Gent are in a similar position having been defeated at home lowly AS Eupen (who?).
Even allowing for the changes that Pochettino is going to make, you’d expect the greater quality of Tottenham would shine through here and we’ve gone for them to open our acca at 4/5.
Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho has been quite vocal with his frustrations when it comes to the Europa League, but the question is can he really afford to be out of it given the Champions League carrot dangling at the end for the winner.
United have been more firmly fixed in sixth position than the Trinity Statue outside Old Trafford, so Mourinho – whether he likes it or not – must take the competition seriously until their league position improves.
This contest also throws up the fascinating prospect of a ‘dab-off’ between the Pogba brothers as Paul’s brother Florentin plays for tonight’s French opponents Saint-Etienne.
With United on a 19-game home unbeaten run and Saint-Etienne losing their last two away games we have to punt for Mourinho charges at 3/10.
Ok this is where we find our value for the acca as we traipse across the continent and it begins in Israel with the aforementioned Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
They lead the way by five points on top of the Israeli league and welcome Turkish Super Lig table-toppers Besiktas tonight. We’re picking Be’er Sheva at 6/4, as the home side have only failed to win two of their last 14 home games – while their opponents have only managed a couple of victories from their last eight away outings.
Next on our trip’s chopping block is the meeting of Dutch outfit AZ and French aristocrats Lyon. With the likes Alexandre Lacazette, Nabil Fekir and Maxime Gonalons in their starting line-up, Memphis Depay’s new club should have more than enough at 5/6 to take down the side who couldn’t beat the mighty Dundalk at home.
Our final leg comes from the Polish capital as Legia Warsaw welcome Ajax to the aptly named Polish Army Stadium. However, we’re not expecting much of a battle on the field here as Legia have conceded a shed load of goals in Europe this campaign and Ajax are on a six-game winning run.
That means we’ll go with the Amsterdam outfit at 11/10.
* All prices correct at time of posting.