Qarabag v Nantes
Qarabag host Nantes in the Europa League on Thursday, having started the competition with a narrow 2-1 loss against in-form Bundesliga side Freiburg away from home. On the other hand, Nantes edged Olympiacos 2-1 in France.
The hosts, though, have to start this game as warm favourites. For a start, they post a strong European home record. In the 11 home games they have played on the continent since the start of last season, they have lost only one. Although this was against a French outfit in the form of Marseille, OM finished 16 points better off than Nantes in Ligue 1 last term.
Meanwhile, the travelling French side are likely to struggle in this game. Firstly, they lack the experience to cope with long European journeys such as this. Perhaps more pertinently, though, they do not have the squad depth to adequately deal with such games. Head coach Antoine Kombouare has persistently complained about his lack of resources since the summer, and this will be their sixth game in 18 days. Unsurprisingly, their squad is starting to look a little stretched, as a 3-2 loss in Lorient last Sunday suggested. This is hardly ideal ahead of such a gruelling journey east.
Furthermore, Nantes have yet to win an away match of any sort this season, while Qarabag have won six of seven at home. The visitors, then, are unlikely to get much change from their hosts in this encounter.
Monaco v Ferencvaros
Monaco and Ferencvaros is a Europa League match that should produce goals on Thursday. Both sides kicked off the competition with a victory, the principality side struggling to overcome Red Star 1-0 away from home as the Hungarians won a 3-2 thriller against Trabzonspor in Budapest.
Monaco have now won their last three fixtures but have struggled to be convincing in these games and have been reliant on misfiring opponents to some extent. That trend continued on Sunday even as they beat Lyon 2-1. Indeed, they have conceded at least one goal in each of their five home matches this season and have conceded four goals each against Lens and Troyes. With a defence that is likely to be rotated in midweek, they are likely to be below full strength for this game, especially as Vanderson could miss out injured.
On the other hand, Monaco do have some firepower behind then. Captain Wissam Ben Yedder, last season’s leading scorer, is set to start and has a point to prove after being benched in the last two league fixtures.
Ferencvaros, meanwhile, have been involved in a strong of high-scoring matches this season. Ten of their 15 fixtures have provided over 2.5 goals, with one of those that did not effectively a dead rubber second-leg match with Shamrock Rovers in qualifying. They are certainly not defensive specialists in Europe, having conceded 11 in their nine games, and while they have the capacity to find the net in this game, they are also likely to concede, too.
FC Midtjylland v SS Lazio
It is time for one of the bigger games on Danish soil this year as the Wolves from Midtjylland take on Lazio in Herning. The Italian guests are leading the group after defeating Feyenoord 4-2 last week, but the Danes shouldn’t be underestimated.
FC Midtjylland lost their opening match of the group stage to Sturm Graz in Austria, so they are under pressure. Unfortunately for the Black Wolves, things aren’t looking too good at the moment. They are yet to win at home this season in the Superliga, and they have won two matches in total domestically. One of their big issues is the attack. Despite having multiple big names here, they have only managed three goals in their last five Superliga matches, and they have lost four home games in a row.
The Italians are in a better position. Head coach Maurizio Sarri is bringing his entire first team to Denmark, and the Italians are expecting another victory. Lazio are yet to lose away this season, and they were extremely impressive in their last European outing against Feyenoord. They have a dangerous attack with loads of quality, and their physical strength should give them the upper hand against the smaller Danes.
We expect the Italian to be at a much higher level than the Danish opponents and expect them to pull away with three points and a victory.
Trabzonspor v Crvena Zvezda
The last Turkish Super Lig champions Trabzonspor are in trouble. They lost against Ferencvaros in the first match of the Europa League despite one of the Ferencvaros players receiving a red card in the first half. After a bad result against the 10-men, they also lost against Adana Demirspor 3-2 away in the league. It has to be said that despite the goals they conceded in the last minute, they looked quite ineffective and problematic throughout the match.
Coach Abdullah Avci was under pressure, and the joyous feeling of winning the championship soon turned to worry. They are in 8th place in the league and 8 players of the starting 11 in the last match were newcomers to the team and it is certain that those changes in such a short time had a negative impact on the team.. In addition, right winger Edin Visca’s injury and experienced midfielder Marek Hamsik’s form increase the number of problematic issues in the team.
Crvena Zvezda are the undefeated leader of the Serbian league. They have scored a minimum of one goal in 13 of their 14 games this season, only failing to score against strong rivals Monaco in the Europa League last week. A team that plays with three men defense, organized and strong. Striker Aleksandar Pesic scored 14 goals in the Turkish Super League last season, and this season he has already scored 4 goals for his new team, Crvena Zvezda.
Trabzonspor don’t seem eager or in form. The post-championship syndrome of veteran players and the large number of new players joining the team make things difficult. There will be a lot of pressure at home and they have to win this match. However, it is very unlikely that this situation will have a positive effect on a team spiralling out of control.
Bodø/Glimt v FC Zürich
If you had offered a 1-1 draw away to PSV in the first matchday then they probably would have taken it. However, after having led in that fixture and also with a brilliant late chance to win the game maybe they will overall be disappointed. The xG figures last week were 1.64 to 1.24 in PSV’s favour. It was disappointing as an over 2.5 goal backer that there were only two goals in the game. Truth be told though, PSV didn’t really play well enough and that was down to Bodø/Glimt who made themselves really hard to play against, constantly harassing their Dutch opponents and giving them no time on the ball. Glimt often raise their game in Europe, and you could argue that this is now their main priority this season. They are a massive 13 points behind Molde in race for the Eliteserien crown after losing 2-3 away to bitter rivals Tromsø on Sunday. They have been in poor recent domestic form losing consecutive fixtures. All of the European qualifying games and hectic schedule might now be starting to catch up with Bodø/Glimt. They are usually very strong in home European matches on their own artificial surface. Key attacker Amahl Pellegrino remains doubtful after missing the last two games with injury.
Zürich lost their first group match 1-2 at home to Arsenal. They put up a good fight but were ultimately undone by a higher class side. They were outgunned 1.48 vs 2.82 on xG in that match but played well in patches. Zürich would not expect to get anything vs Arsenal and their key fixtures are realistically against both Bodø/Glimt and PSV. They are in terrible domestic form and the defending Swiss Super league champions have lost 6 out of 8 games and yet to register a victory! Midfielder Ole Selnaes makes the return to his homeland where he spent four years as a Rosenborg player. Fast striker Aiyegun Tosin showed against Arsenal that he can get in behind the defence but will need to be more composed. Zürich lost striker Willy Gnonto to Leeds United on the last day of the transfer window for £4m. The big problems appear to be at the other end of the field where they have conceded 19 goals in 6 Swiss Super League games in addition to the brace conceded vs Arsenal last week.
Bodø/Glimt are 1.53 favourites to win this game which seems fair. They are very strong at home in Europe and most people would consider them a better team than Zürich. I think that over 2.5 is usually the best way to approach Glimt European games though. It was very unlucky that the over didn’t hit in their fixture last week but there should be at least three goals scored here. Zürich can’t just sit there and play for a draw here they need to have some sort of positive approach. They showed vs Arsenal that they are more than capable on the break, and I expect both teams to contribute towards this over 2.5 line. A home win can very much be expected but goals seem an even safer play.
Union St Gilloise v Malmö FF
After a historic season for Union St Gilloise, where they finished top of the regular season to only get pipped to the title by Club Brugge in the championship round, the club qualified Europe for the first in modern times this season. In fact, they were in the Champions League qualifying, and were close to knocking out Rangers after winning 2-0 in the first leg, only to lose 3-0 away from home. Europa League will have to do for the well-run club who have Brighton’s owner Tony Bloom as the majority shareholder.
This season hasn’t started as well as the last one; USG sit in 7th in the Belgian Pro League, with three defeats already on their record after eight matches. The squad is looking strong though, despite the departure of a couple of important players in top scorer Deniz Undav, to Brighton, and midfielder Casper Nielsen, to Club Brugge, in the summer. New striker Victor Boniface, arriving from Bodø/Glimt, unfortunately hasn’t hit the ground running, only scoring once in six starts. There is however plenty of quality in the squad and they’re expected to challenge at the top of the Belgian league again this season.
Malmö put in a convincing performance for the first time in a while at the weekend, beating IFK Norrköping 2-1 at home, with underlying numbers heavily in Malmö’s favour. It’s been a struggle all season long though and they remain eight points off the top of the table, with four points up to Hammarby in 3rd. To not miss out on European football next season for the first time in eight years, they’ll need to finish the season strongly and hope teams above them slip up. An undoubtedly strong squad has been marred by tactical inconsistencies from managerial changes, however there is a possibility for some stability with Åge Hareide at the helm until the end of this campaign. Oscar Lewicki being back in central midfield is a big boost and Isaac Kiese Thelin looks more confident up top.
Despite a positive performance last weekend, Malmö look a bit frail, having only won two of their last five matches in all competitions, and have struggled away from home. USG is a real stern test with a stronger squad to boost, and we can expect the home side to be the better team in this encounter.
Real Betis v Ludogorets
Only Real Madrid have been able to knock Real Betis off their stride in the opening weeks of the 2022/23 campaign, as the Verdiblancos have recorded an impressive run of five wins around the narrow 2-1 defeat at the Bernabéu early this month.
Manuel Pellegrini has rotated his team heavily in the Europa League, including making 10 changes against HJK in Helsinki in the opening game of the group stages, but they have emerged victorious. That could be the case again at home to Ludogorets, with the likes of Willian José, Luis Henrique, Joaquín and Rodri Sánchez likely to feature, providing a further boost to the latter after scoring the winner in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Villarreal.
Aside from that game at the Bernabéu, Betis have conceded only one goal in their five wins, which could make things difficult for a Ludogorets team who have scored 10 goals in their last two domestic fixtures. Their 2-1 win over Roma in Razograd last week was their first Europa League group stage win since 2019, which gives them some hope given that their six previous meetings with Spanish teams have seen 17 goals conceded with only one scored.
Home advantage for Betis at the Estadio Benito Villamarín could play into their hands given that the Seville-based side have only been beaten there twice in 14 games in the competition over the last decade. Even on midweek nights, the fans come out in force. The quality of Betis could prove to be just too much for Ludogorets to handle as they seek to become the first Bulgarian team ever to win on Spanish soil, or at the very least the first to avoid defeat since CSKA Sofia drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad in the European Cup in September 1981.
Rennes v Fenerbache
Rennes performed very well in Europe last season. They made it to the last 16 in the Conference League, and did this by coming out of a group with Tottenham. They are certainly a much stronger team with their transfers this season in the Europa League. They sometimes played 4-3-3 and sometimes 4-4-2, they became a very effective team going forward.
Rennes managed to score in 7 of the 8 games played this season and most recently beat Auxerre 5-0 at the weekend. Their form is on the rise and they won the first match in the Europa League against AEK Larnaca by a score of 1-2. They have important injuries like Jeremy Doku and Warmed Omari, but they’ve been playing without them for a while, showcasing their depth.
Fenerbahce did not play in the Turkish Super League last weekend. They rested during the bye-week, and in the last match, they managed to beat Dynamo Kyiv 2-1. The team has a rollercoaster of form, they play with high pressure, especially at home and they get successful results. However, the away form still does not look good enough. As a matter of fact, they lost 1-0 to Konyaspor in their last away game in the league.
Rennes are a strong, young and athletic team. Fenerbahce has to physically exceed its limits to respond to its opponent. In my opinion, the probability of this happening is very low and Rennes is a very difficult opponent for Fenerbahce.
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