Ludogorets v Roma
Much like Inter in the Champions League, Roma will want to put a bitterly disappointing Serie A result behind them as they step into European action for the first time this season, facing a potentially tricky trip to face Ludogorets.
Nobody saw Jose Mourinho’s side’s 4-0 hammering away at Udinese coming, and it brought back memories of their early-season Conference League humiliation against Bodo/Glimt last term. While Roma have looked pretty good for the most part this season, the loss in Friuli Venezia-Giulia served as a reminder that, despite Mourinho’s good work, they are still Roma and that means they are always capable of shooting themselves in the foot and collapsing at the drop of a hat.
They are in the Europa League as Conference League champions though, so they know their way around European competitions, particularly with Mourinho on the bench. As well, prior to their collapse in Udine, they hadn’t conceded a goal from open play in their four Serie A outings – only falling behind to a stunning Dusan Vlahovic free-kick against Juventus.
Ludogorets are second in the Bulgarian First League, though their 25 goals in seven matches suggests Roma will have a lot of defensive work to do. In response to last weekend’s embarrassment, though, you’d expect Mourinho’s Roma to bounce back with a win and likely keep a clean sheet as well.
PSV v Bodø/Glimt
Both teams are still reeling from their disappointment at not qualifying for the Champions League Group stage. PSV almost did the hard part by getting past Monaco but were scuppered by Scottish outfit Rangers. Their 0-1 defeat in the second leg in that fixture was the only time PSV have failed to hit the back of the net this season. They are usually an offensive juggernaut and already racked up 5-1, 6-1 and 7-1 victories in the Eredivisie this season. Of course, the Dutch league is very offensive minded and contains some teams where there is a huge gulf in class. It is clear PSV do not lack for goals though and they possess several big attacking weapons. The much sought after Cody Gakpo, who has been linked with several Premier League clubs including Leeds United has already weighed in with 7 goals and 6 assists in all competitions. New summer signing Xavi Simons from PSG has scored 7 goals in 8 appearances, and they have midfield runners such as Guus Til and Joey Veerman who can also contribute towards the scoresheet. Manager Ruud van Nistelrooy has started strongly in charge and has brought with him an attacking style of football which should please the fans.
This is a tricky group because it also contains Arsenal, who are the understandable favourites to top the standings but also Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt & Swiss champions FC Zurich. Second spot is certainly up for grabs and let’s not forget third spot which would enable a team to drop down to the Europa Conference League knockout stage. Bodø/Glimt travel here on the back of a 1-4 home defeat vs Molde in the Eliteserien. It looks like they will not be winning their own domestic division for a third year in a row because they are too many points adrift. Bodø/Glimt have a good pedigree in Europe and have more than held their own in the last year or so. They most famously beat Roma 6-1 and also drew 2-2 in Rome. Key attacker Amahl Pellegrino is doubtful with injury here, but they recently signed former player in midfield Patrick Berg which is a massive boost. Glimt have struggled in all of their European away matches this season, losing in Zagreb, Linfield and even away in the Faroe Islands.
We know that both teams like to attack, and their respective managers are very positive with their tactics. I suspect PSV will win this match. They are strong at home and quite simply possess that bit more extra quality. Someone like Cody Gakpo can make a massive difference here. However, Bodø/Glimt will give it a proper go and go down swinging if needed. They are not the sort of team who will just come here and park the bus. Even if they are on the back foot for a lot of the game, they will always offer a strong counter-attacking threat at least. The price is fairly short but over 2.5 goals look like a great bet at 1.45. PSV could cover this line on their own but there is every chance the Norwegians could also contribute. In what should be a really good game to watch for the neutral then it makes sense to back the goals.
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