Zalgiris v FC Basel
With five wins from six, FC Basel are slowly but surely turning around their bleak start to the season. It has been a bit of a rocky start under the management of Alex Frei and they did suffer a blip in the 2-1 defeat to Sion just under two weeks ago, but they delivered a strong performance at the weekend against Grasshoppers to follow up their 3-1 opening night victory in the UEFA Europa Conference League against Armenian minnows Pyunik. The wins are starting to come together, even if there are still shaky moments defensively, as seen in that win last Thursday and again at the weekend via the concession of a penalty to their visitors from Zurich.
Zalgiris should be dismissed at FCB’s peril. On paper, a team from Lithuania is not viewed as one that will cause much concern, but this side have not made it easy for any visitors to Vilnius in European competition this season. They have beaten Malmo and held both Bodo/Glimt and Ludogorets to draws on home soil so far. These are clear warning signs for a Basel side that came unstuck in the UECL last season with stalemates at Qarabag and Omonia Nicosia, securing their only away win in their group with a 3-2 triumph over Kairat Almaty.
Zalgiris haven’t failed to score at home in their last twelve, including those European fixtures, and can trouble an FCB backline that has yet to keep an away clean sheet. FCB have finally found their scoring touch in the last few weeks, so with their talent, they should be able to score in this one too.
Basaksehir v Fiorentina
Basaksehir have started the season in great form. They have played a total of 12 matches in the league and in Europe so far, only conceding a total of 3 goals and they look invincible. On the weekend, they played one of the best teams in the Super League and they kept a clean sheet again. Newcomer Bertrand Traore scored against Besiktas and they won. Their defensive quality is impressive, they also beat Scotland’s Hearts 0-4 away in Conference League last week as well.
Coach Emre Belozoglu needs to rotate, but they have many players with the same quality. They give equal importance to the league and Europe, so they will look at Fiorentina as a winnable game. Probably striker Stefano Okaka will play, as a player who has played in Italy Serie A for years, he will be Basaksehir’s most important weapon.
Fiorentina has played 9 games this season, scoring more than 1 goal in only two of them. In addition, 6 of these 9 matches ended under 2.5 goals. In their games, Fiorentina prioritise defensive stability, while Basaksehir already gets all its strength from defensive quality. There is no important players missing for the hosts, but centre bacj Nikola Milenkovic is not expected to play for Fiorentina. Under these conditions, under 2.5 goals looks locked in.
Cologne v Slovacko
Five years since their last participation in European football, Cologne are back in a UEFA competition at the group stage. They got here by beating Hungarian side Fehérvár in the playoff and last week, they travelled to Nice where they picked up a commendable 1-1 draw, thanks to an excellent Marvin Schwabe performance in goal, although the fixture was marred by violence in the stands.
Cologne come into this game following a 1-0 defeat against Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin. Despite putting four past Wolfsburg the previous weekend, in truth, the Billy Goats have struggled in front of goal since the departure of Anthony Modeste, who scored 20 league goals last season, to Borussia Dortmund. Steffen Tigges and Sargis Adamyan, who have scored one each in all competitions, were recruited to replace the goals of Modeste but it’s in fact reserve striker Florian Dietz that often gets the nod in attack.
The key man for Steffen Baumgart’s Cologne is Florian Kainz, his two goals and three assists in the Bundesliga this season makes the Austrian the most dangerous player in their final third. The absence of Modeste is evident, Cologne underperforming their xG by 2, but they should have more than enough opportunities against Slovacko on Thursday evening. Across 10 games in all competitions this season, Cologne have only created an average of 7 chances/90, it’s up to Kainz and Co. to capitalise.
Slovacko sit eight in the Czech First League after eight games, winning just two. Not a regular in European football, they finished fourth in 2020 and 2021, their highest league finishes in the last decade. Captain Michal Kadlec is one to watch but at 37, Kainz and Dejan Ljubicic should get the better of the left-back. I would expect Cologne to win this but they don’t seem to create too many chances, and so I don’t think this will be high scoring.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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