Partisan v Cologne
It’s still all to play for in Group D of the UEFA Europa Conference League with one point separating Partizan, Nice and Cologne heading into the fourth matchday. Steffen Baumgart will want a response from his players following a derby defeat against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Sunday. This match between the two teams last week ended in a narrow 1-0 win for Partizan.
Although Cologne dominated the return fixture with 74% possession, they failed to convert any of their 17 shots with just 5 finding the target. It’s been a known problem for Cologne this season in the absence of Anthony Modeste. Although Steffen Tigges offers a threat in the air, the former Borussia Dortmund forward doesn’t offer much else, which could mean another start for Florian Dietz. Florian Kainz is Cologne’s key player with 8 goal contributions (4 goals, 4 assists) in 9 Bundesliga games, but is yet to find his form in this season’s European competition. Baumgart will also be without Dejan Ljubicic.
Coming into Thursday’s game with 4 successive wins, Partizan are in excellent form and are unbeaten in their last 14 games across all competitions. In their last 4 games, the Serbian side have scored 11 and conceded just 1. Prior to their winning run, Partizan picked up an impressive 1-1 draw against a strong Nice side. The last time Partizan failed to score was in the league all the way back on July 29.
Although not quite as impressive as Partizan’s scoring record, Cologne have scored in 6 of their last 8 games in all competitions. They troubled Partizan last weekend but failed to convert but they will inevitably create chances on Thursday night. Wanting a reaction following their defeat on Sunday against local rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach, they’ll use that to fuel their performance against Partizan. They won’t however have any travelling support after UEFA banned fans from their remaining away games in the group following crowd violence in their opening group game against Nice.
The Partizan stadium is always a tough place to visit for opposing teams. The hosts have an impressive scoring record and you could also see Cologne getting at least a score draw in Serbia. Chances will come at both ends and Betfair’s odds for both teams to score is excellent value.
Austria Vienna v Villarreal
Austria Vienna will head into the return fixture with Villarreal emboldened by their away win over city rivals Rapid in the 337th Vienna derby, but that does not change the fact that they were comprehensively outclassed in their previous meeting with the Spanish side a week ago and currently sit bottom of the group with one point to their name. In fact, the Violets are now on an 11-match winless run on the European stage – during which they have never mustered more than one goal in a game.
For Villarreal, the opposite is true. While they have not won in La Liga for over a month and currently sit in ninth, the 2021 Europa League winners are top of their Conference League group with nine points and a goal difference of +7. Of the 96 clubs taking part in the continental group stages this season, only Napoli and Bayern Munich boasted a better record after their opening three matches. That is particularly impressive given that they have been without talisman Gerard Moreno since early September.
Villarreal’s 5-0 victory in the reverse fixture last week was their joint-biggest win in two decades of European group-stage football – they beat fellow Austrians Rapid by the same scoreline in 2018/19 – and the contrasting recent international form of the two teams suggests the Yellow Submarine will make light work of the Violets. With all that in mind, we are backing Villarreal to win on their visit to the Austrian capital.
FCSB v Silkeborg
The first meeting between these two sides last week finished as a proper destruction of the Romanian outfit. Silkeborg won 5-0 at home, and there was a significant level difference between the two teams.
Part of the story of the first match was, though, that the Romanians fielded a weakened side. FCSB are struggling domestically, currently ranking 12th out of 16 clubs, and club owner Gigi Becali ordered his coach to down prioritize the match in Denmark. Whether the situation will repeat itself for this match is unknown, but it seems like it helped as FCSB won 2-0 away against Petrolul Sunday afternoon. Nevertheless, if FCSB wants to advance from the group, this fixture is a must win. They have just one point after their first three matches and need points to stay in the fight for playoff football next year.
Silkeborg are in a much better position. The victory last week was their first points in this group stage, but they played excellently against both West Ham and Anderlecht and shouldn’t be underestimated at all. They are in good form as well. Silkeborg are undefeated in their previous four matches in all tournaments with three victories and a single draw. They are currently fourth in the Danish Superliga, and they are filled to the brink with confidence.
We don’t expect Silkeborg to dominate as much as the previous match, but they remain favourites in this one. They have earned a lot of respect for their European campaign this season, and we expect them to leave Bucharest with at least one point. Odds 1.42 on Silkeborg to win or draw at Betfair Sportsbook is great value.
Ballkani v Sivasspor
Sivasspor finally won the league after a long period of bad form. Moreover, they defeated Başakşehir, one of the best teams in the league. Injuries returned to the team, new signing Dia Saba started to perform well and the defender duo is now determined. Sivasspor had turned their form into a positive for a while, they finally reflected this in the result. In the first match played with Ballkani, the game was very good in offense, but they made too many mistakes in defense. By losing this match, they missed the opportunity to gain an advantage in the group, so they need to win in this away match, at least they should not lose.
Kosovo representative Ballkani performed very well in the offense against Sivasspor last week. A team that can cause trouble to any opponent in the group, they have scored at least 2 goals in the last 6 games they played. This match may decide their fate in the group and they will definitely want to win. Therefore, both teams will put everything on the field.
It will be a match where two teams with strong offensive weapons and many offensive weapons will play to win. A similar match can be expected with the first match ending 3-4.
Shamrock Rovers v Molde
Molde won the reverse fixture 3-0 last week and were by far the better team. The Norwegian outfit controlled the game perfectly and will argue that they should have won by an even bigger margin. They led the shot count 27-2 and the Irish visitors didn’t even manage to test the goalkeeper on any occasion. With over 60% of the ball, Erling Moe’s side were allowed to stroll to victory which moved them up to four points in the group standings. Djurgården’s victory away to Gent last week has really made this group interesting. Molde know that they have two tough games remaining after this one and can ill afford to slip up in this affair away to Shamrock Rovers. They are the odds-on favourites to prevail at 1.70 and this is understandable after their performance last week. Molde have a mixed away record in Europe this season. They beat Swedish outfit Elfsborg and also claimed an impressive 4-0 success in Austria vs Wolfsberger. However, they also lost away in Hungary to Kisvarda and succumbed in the 90th min to Djurgården 3-2. Young Ivorian striker David Datro Fofana was suspended last week and might be unleashed here in Ireland. They won 5-0 at the weekend vs Ham Kam without Fofana starting though and the manager might be tempted to maintain a winning side.
Shamrock Rovers will be disappointed with both of their last two European results, losing 0-3 away to Molde and Gent. They are known for being weak on the road in Europe though, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. The Irish outfit are usually much more competitive at home and beat the likes of Shkupi and Ferencvaros here in Europa League qualifying earlier in the summer. Another team they beat were Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets and in the first group game managed to hold Djurgården to a 0-0 draw. Shamrock Rovers are a prideful side and despite knowing their chances of qualifying are now very low, they will be giving it everything in their quest to get a positive result. They warmed up for this fixture by beating Shelbourne 3-2 at the weekend, scoring two late goals to preserve their five point cushion at the top of the Irish Premier League. They should be pumped up by that result and despite looking awful last week they still deserve some respect at their own stadium.
I cannot ignore the statistics from the first matchup though. Molde won the xG battle 4.93 to 0.24 last week which is an absolutely massive difference. How they only won 3-0 is quite mind bogging considering how many chances they had. Football can be a strange game sometimes and this is a clean slate and a fresh new fixture, but I would expect them too be too strong overall. The Norwegians, who are now only one draw from winning the Eliteserien crown know they simply can’t drop points here because it is a great opportunity to prevail. I like the idea of backing Molde to win at 1.68 and they should have too much quality and class for their Irish opponents again.
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