Silkeborg v FCSB
This is a match between two clubs under pressure. Neither of the sides have won in this group stage, and the gap up to Anderlecht on the second place is in danger of becoming too big to close. Both teams are thus forced to pursue the three points here.
Silkeborg were incredibly unlucky not to get at least a draw against West Ham at home in their last Conference League match. However, the match proved that they could compete against strong teams, just like their narrow 1-0 defeat to Anderlecht did, and they are entering this game as favourites. They have won two games in a row in all tournaments and played well in the weekend. Sunday afternoon, they defeated local rivals Horsens 2-1 at home, and they have confidence before the match against the Romanian giants. Silkeborg have an exciting and fast paced offense, and they should be able to hurt FCSB.
The Romanian guests are struggling at the moment. The club has proud traditions, but they are in the wrong end of the Romanian league. Just 11 points in ten games is their league total, and across all competitions they have just won one of their last seven games. FCSB picked up a 0-0 draw at home against Anderlecht in their opening match, but the European Cup winners from 1986 are miles away from the level they had in the past.
Silkeborg are favourites here against a struggling Romanian outfit, and we expect the Danes to pick up the victory.
Sivasspor v Ballkani
Sivasspor have not been able to improve the situation in their domestic league, they have still not won a single match yet. They lost to Hatayspor at the weekend at home; now the goal of pushing for the top positions in the Turkish Super League is getting further and further away, but the form has been much better in Europe. They scored a total of 4 points from the two matches they played against Slavia Prague from Czechia and Cluj from Romania. Despite the bad results in the league, it is fair to say that they are in a slightly better condition compared to the beginning of the season.
Ballkani is performing very well in the Kosovar Superliga and has shown one of the most important achievements in their history by reaching the group stage in Europe. Their league matches are postponed before the matches they will play in Europe, they passed this weekend without playing a match and they will be fresh against Sivasspor. They are a team that has scored in 14 of the 16 games they played this season, including scoring in both games of the Europa League group thus far.
Sivasspor is vulnerable in defence, but on the other hand, they attack well. Likewise, Ballkani is a team that attacks well but has poor overall squad quality in comparison to the hosts.
RFS v Istanbul Basaksehir
RFS won the Latvian Virsliga last season and are in 3rd place with 6 games left in the league this season. They are fighting in European competition for the first time in their history and they managed an impressive draw with Fiorentina in their first match. On the other hand, they were then defeated 0-2 at home against Hearts, which Basaksehir beat 0-4 away. It’s a defensive team, but the quality and skill level of the squad is minimal compared to the rest of Group A.
Basaksehir did not lose any of the 15 games they played this season and only conceded a total of 5 goals in these games. They did not concede a goal in the two matches they played in the UEFA Conference League and scored a total of 7 goals. They won a tough away game in the league at the weekend against Ankaragucu and now, they are at the top of the Turkish Super League despite playing one less match compared to their rivals. Coach Emre Belozoglu constantly changes the twenty players in the team, plays every match in rotation and still continues to win.
Basaksehir club is also a club that has declared its mission to raise Turkey’s place in the UEFA rankings, so they want to win every European match. They will rotate against RFS away from Latvia, but Basaksehir starting at 11 is the best option for that day.
Molde v Shamrock Rovers
It has been a brilliant domestic season for Molde. They are potentially just three points away from securing the Eliteserien title after beating Tromsø 1-0 at the weekend. Realistically, it is just a matter of when, not if they win the gold medal. It means that Molde can have close to full focus on European matters, and they need to complete a double over Shamrock Rovers considering their relatively poor start to this group.
They drew 0-0 vs Belgian side Gent at home, a match they dominated but just couldn’t find a way through. Then, they had a disappointing 2-3 loss away to Swedish side Djurgården, succumbing to a late goal. Striker David Datro Fofana was sent off early in the second half so will be suspended for this fixture. Molde did not play badly in that game but obviously being down to ten men for the near entirety of the second half did not help. They generally have a strong European record at home, and it is no surprise to see them as the clear favourite here.
Shamrock Rovers also look like winning their own domestic title. A 3-1 away victory vs Sligo at the weekend has put them five points clear at the top of the Irish Premier Division with only five games left to play. They also only have one point in this Europa Conference League group which was obtained in the first week at home to Djurgården (0-0). Shamrock Rovers lost 0-3 away to Belgian side Gent in the previous round in which they got comprehensively outplayed.
Their away record in Europe is not very good and in the qualifying rounds this season comfortably lost to Ferencváros & Ludogorets. Both of those teams are of a similar level to Molde which doesn’t bode well. They couldn’t even beat Maltese side Hibernians in UCL qualifying, although did have a victory away to Macedonian outfit Shkupi. The Irish side are basically not known for travelling well in Europe and would probably prefer the home match vs Molde first.
Molde have faced Irish opposition in recent years, twice beating Dundalk during the 2019/20 campaign. The prospective Norwegian Champions are only 1.25 to win the game which is obviously a short price. Taking them to win and to score over 1.5 goals is a more backable price of 1.44 and this is my preferred bet. They should have too much for Shamrock Rovers and something like a 2-0 or 3-0 victory is likely. This bet still covers for any one goal win apart from the 1-0, so seems quite safe. Even without Datro Fofana upfront they should have enough.
FC Basel v Slovan Bratislava
It is now five wins in a row for FC Basel after their dramatic 3-2 home win over St.Gallen on Saturday evening. A shaky start to the season that included two league defeats and an uninspiring UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying campaign saved by two second-leg comebacks at the Joggeli seems to firmly be behind the 20-time Swiss champions. Former player Alexander Frei is stamping his identity on the team and the young, exciting talent that he is putting his faith in is starting to show up on a consistent basis.
Summer signing Zeki Amdouni was one of those names to shine bright in the win over St.Gallen. He turned the game on its head with two goals in quick succession and when St. Gallen rallied with an equaliser from the spot, it was Bradley Fink, signed from Dortmund, that stooped low to head in the winner seconds after coming off the bench. The experienced Michael Lang, the scorer of an extra-time goal in the cup against Aarau, delivered a fantastic assist for Fink. There is a good mix in this squad, one that has shown resolve and maturity in their last three games in difficult venues and against difficult opposition.
FCB should be feeling confident ahead of this game against Slovan Bratislava. The Slovak side don’t score many goals, they have still to find the net in this group and were undone on their travels to Armenia in their last match. St. Jakob-Park was vital in getting Basel to this stage of the competition and will provide the platform to make it three wins from three.
Gent v Djurgardens
Gent’s domestic season has been a large disappointment; after finishing last season in 5th place, they are this year stuck in mid-table, placed 9th, with four losses already registered after ten games. With only one point up to a Conference League playoff spot, it’s not a disaster, and there are plenty of games left to play.
The form is concerning, though, having only won on three occasions in their last ten in all competitions, most recently suffering a 4-3 loss to second-bottom Cercle Brugge. An attacking side averaging 1.6 goals per match in Belgium, largely thanks to the league’s joint top-scorer Hugo Cuypers (7 goals), keeping it tight at the back has been the larger issue.
With 14 goals conceded and only two clean sheets, improvement is needed in order for the classic club to climb up the table. So far in the UECL we’ve seen better consistency, with the team collecting four points from a possible six and beating Shamrock Rovers by a comfortable 3-0 scoreline at home.
Djurgården are in a closely fought title race in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, predominantly up against Häcken, with the two teams only separated by goal difference with six rounds to go. A humbling 3-0 defeat against Degerfors at the weekend was hugely unexpected, despite their opponents’ recent upturn in form. Fortunately for the Stockholm side, Häcken also dropped points and remain behind them.
The defeat was deserved, but the lacklustre performance very surprising after the longest rest the team has had in months. Degerfors were better organised, played with more urgency in possession, and pressed Djurgården into making mistakes on the ball. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for such a half-hearted display at a crucial moment in the campaign, but we can fully expect the whole team to rally and produce an improved performance in a crucial European game between the top two teams in the group.
Djurgården struggle to perform as well on grass as they do on astroturf, and have only managed to secure one win in seven matches played on the surface this season. Gent play on grass, a definite downside for the away team, but we can still expect them to try and secure some sort of result here.
As we know, Gent are porous at the back while being fairly free-scoring at the other end, while Djurgården have conceded five in their last three matches. They are also the second-highest scorers in Allsvenskan, so with that in mind we’ll go for both teams to get on the scoresheet here.
Villareal v Austria Vienna
It’s top-of-the-group vs bottom-of-the-group when Villarreal host Austria Vienna in the Conference League on Thursday and the home side are heavy favourites, although there’s not too much value at the odds of 1.15 for the home victory.
Where there should be value is in the over 2.5 goals market. Including qualifiers, Villarreal have now played four matches in this competition this season and they have scored 12 goals and conceded six, for an average of 4.5 total match goals per game.
This is totally different from their La Liga form, but that makes sense because it is a totally different line-up that is starting these Conference League matches, with Unai Emery unashamedly switching out an entire starting XI if he feels he can still win with the backups. The backup Villarreal forwards are still prolific in attack, with talented youngsters like Álex Baena and Nicolas Jackson getting minutes, but the defence of the Villarreal B side is much weaker, and they’ve conceded in three out of their four Conference League outings.
Austria Vienna, meanwhile, are scoring and conceding a lot of goals too, domestically and in Europe since they’re not changing their line-ups between competitions as much as Villarreal. They’re third in the Austrian Bundesliga for total match goals in their fixtures, averaging 3.5 total goals per game, while their Conference League games so far were a 0-0 at home but then a 4-1 loss to Lech Poznan on the road. Villarreal should hand the team from the Austrian capital another defeat on Thursday, and it could be a high-scoring one.
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