UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
THURSDAY 21ST AUGUST
QARABAĞ FK vs. FC TWENTE (17:00 BST)
Alfred Schreuder heads into a hard trip to Azerbaijan with the best squad FC Twente has in recent years, however Will Burns suggests that the Horsemen of Azerbaijan will not make it easy for the Enschede boys.
Qarabağ FK’s 2-1 home victory against Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg was an extraordinary result in the Champions League third qualifying round first leg, particularly as Salzburg battered Ajax 6-1 over two legs in the Europa League last year and in this game, Gurban Gurbanov’s side finished the match with only nine men.
Strangely enough, Qarabağ and Twente have met at this stage before in 2009/10 with the Eredivisie side winning 3-1 in the home leg but held to a goal-less draw in the return leg. I feel that Twente will be two strong over the two legs but may find life difficult in Stadium Tofig Bahramov Republican. Their coach Gubanov at only 42-years-old has had six years at the club and he has them playing attractive football and they are not reliant on one player.
The side has a Brazilian contingent, with winger Danilo Leandro Dias, attacking midfielder Chumbinho, anchorman Richard Almeida and forward Reynaldo vital components in the side. However, against the likes of new signings Hakim Ziyech and Kamohelo Mokotjo, creative midfielder Youness Mokhtar, speedy winger Kasper Kusk and clinical striker Luc Castaignos, Twente should have enough power in their eleven to sneak a narrow win.
Twente are favourites and rightly so, however do not expect a whitewash, the Dutch side to win 1-0 or 2-1. A Twente win is valued at Bet Victor at 17/20 and I feel that is the safest and recommended bet in this first leg tie.
PSV vs. FC SHAKHTYOR SOLIGORSK (17:45 BST)
Lawk Raoof tells you to tune in this Thursday night for a solid 3-0 win by PSV against Belarusian Cup winner FC Shakhtyor Salihorsk. Be ready to view the clash between David versus Goliath, PSV versus Shaktyor, a Europa League group place versus nothing.
PSV started the Eredivisie season with a great 3-2 win against Willem II and a beastly 6-1 home-win against NAC Breda with World Cup stars Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay in a defining role. The first leg of the two games will be at the Phillips Stadium in Eindhoven this Thursday, while the second game will be in Belarus, against 2014 cup-winner FC Shakhtyor Salihorsk. The team started in 1961 and has a small capacity of just 4,200 fans in their stadium.
It should not be any surprise that the team should not be underestimated, with quick wingers and a direct playing style they are a typical counter-team. To comprise the danger coming from this fit team is to look at their win against Zulte Waregem (BEL) with an aggregated 7-4 win and their aggregated win against Irish side Derry City of 6-2. Both games with a flashing counter-attack.
However, with the current form of the PSV players, their teamwork and class they will easily win this game by my prediction by 3-0. The team out of Belarus comes out of a poor quality league and has only came so far by winning both second and third qualifying round games against weak opponents and winning the 2014 national cup.
I recommend placing a small stake on PSV to win 3-0 at 6/1 at Bet Victor. Cocu’s men will explode out of the blocks and this time with great combination game defeat this enemy.
FC ZORYA LUHANSK vs. FEYENOORD (18:45 BST)
Fred Rutten’s Feyenoord face a tough trip to the Ukraine to face Zoyra Luhansk, a team that struggled to defeat Norweigans Molde FK in the last round in a narrow 2-1 win. Will Burns feels that Rutten’s men may be too strong for the Ukrainians.
The Rotterdammers will have to be aware of striker Pylyp Budkivskiy who has notched once in four games this season so far but is well capable of putting himself about and ruffling the feathers of any defence. The Luhansk side have done their homework and speaking to UEFA.com, the Zorya head coach Yuriy Vernydub seemed confident: “We didn’t expect easy opponents at this stage. Feyenoord are one of the strongest teams in the play-offs. We will do our best to give a respectable account of ourselves. They have some Dutch international players who played in Brazil, but there is nothing to be scared of. Chornomorets Odesa beat PSV last season and we will have our chances.”
Rutten will also be confident heading into Ukraine with talent on the plane like Jordy Clasie, Jean-Paul Boetuis and Lex Immers and I cannot see Feyenoord being troubled too much, however I find it hard to see where the goals may come from. Stand-in striker Mitchell te Vrede has hardly been inspiring this season BUT to his credit he has been in the right place at the right time and scored two goals in two games so far.
Look Feyenoord to win by the single goal and the 1-0 scoreline is 13/2 at Bet Victor may be worth a small stake but taking Feyenoord to win gets you a price of 23/20 which is a safer bet.
PEC ZWOLLE vs. SPARTA PRAGUE (19:00 BST)
Excitement is in the air in Zwolle as Ron Jans leads his side into their first ever European adventure against Czech side Sparta Prague, Will Burns predicts it will be a good night for the Blauwvingers.
Domestically, PEC Zwolle are on fire. First defeating Ajax 1-0 in their own backyard for the Johan Cruijff Schaal then clocking up two wins in two games over FC Utrecht and FC Dordrecht. Like Czech football expert Chris Boothroyd mentioned in his piece yesterday, this is possibly the best time to play Sparta Prague. Champions League elimination via Swedish outfit Malmo FF and then crashing to Banik Ostrava at the weekend, Prague are on the ropes and an in-form Zwolle could smell blood and go to kill this tie off in the first leg.
Sparta will be missing influential midfielder Lukas Vacha, who will sit this game out due to a suspension after his last-minute dismissal against Malmo earlier this month. One link between the clubs will be Zwolle’s latest signing, Czech striker Tomas Necid. The big 6ft 3 forward was introduced in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Dordrecht and set up Mustafa Saymak’s 93rd minute winner. Necid grew up supporting Sparta’s bitter rivals Slavia and has also had two spells at the club, including his youth development.
Zwolle have their tails up and with this being their first ever venture into European football, I see Thursday being a special night and a win against their Czech rivals at the hot atmosphere inside the Ijsseldelta Stadion. Bet Victor are offering 8/5 for the home win and it is a fantastic price that cannot be ignored. I cannot see a price for a Tomas Necid anytime goal, however it would be a lovely story if he gets a run out.
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