18th February, 6/1 Europa League Accumulator
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Slavia Prague vs Leicester – Leicester DNB
· Leicester proved to the rest of the county their top 4 credentials with their impressive come from behind victory over Liverpool at the weekend.
· The fantastic attacking trio of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy were all on the scoresheet once more. The trio combined have directly contributed to 54 Leicester goals this season (36 goals, 18 assists).
· There is a slight chance of rotation given the heavy schedule but having reached the knockout stages I expect Leicester to take the Europa League very seriously from here on in.
· Ayoze Perez picked up an injury against Liverpool and hasn’t travelled. Neither has James Justin who picked up an ACL injury of his own in the FA Cup victory over Brighton. Other than those two and the existing long term injuries that exist everyone else has made the trip to Prague.
· No doubt Prague are a decent side and are sitting top of their domestic league but realistically the Czech Liga is of a poor standard and nowhere near as competitive as what they are likely to face in Europe.
· They finished 2nd in their qualifying group behind Bayer Leverkusen and were well beaten 4-0 by the Germans on matchday 6 which highlights they struggle against higher quality opposition.
· No doubt Leicester have a far superior playing squad to that of Slavia and I expect their quality to do the talking on the night and edge out their Czech opponents this evening.
Molde vs Hoffenheim – Hoffenheim to score 2+ goals
· Hoffenheim make the trip to Spain as overwhelming favourites and it is hard to disagree with the bookmakers in this one and I expect the Germans to score a hatful in what I anticipate to be a high scoring affair.
· The game is being played at the Estadio de la Ceramica in Villarreal due to German restrictions preventing travel to or from countries where any new variants of COVID-19 are currently known to be present.
· This will definitely suit Hoffenheim who eliminate the home advantage for Molde with the fixture being played in Spain.
· The Germans are amongst the most impressive performing sides in the Europa League so far this season, after winning Group L with five victories and one draw from their six matches.
· Molde finished 2nd in a group which contained Arsenal and it is pretty clear they struggle against high quality opposition having been beaten 7-1 on aggregate across the two games.
· No doubt that Molde will be rusty; they haven’t played a competitive game since the Norwegian season ended back in December.
· They have only competed in a few friendlies in preparation for this one and there is little doubt they will struggle with the increased intensity that this game will bring. Fitness and sharpness is sure to have suffered given the lengthy break they have had.
· Hoffenheim have a few injuries within the squad but are a superior side to Molde and having not played a competitive game in over 2 months I suspect they will be well off the pace in this one.
Antwerp vs Rangers – Rangers to win
· Next up we head to Belgium where Rangers travel looking to continue their magnificent season thus far and are odds on to secure yet another victory tonight.
· The win over Kilmarnock on Saturday was their 25th in the Premiership this season with Steven Gerrard’s side still unbeaten and only dropping points on four occasions.
· Their relentless run has put them top of the international form table which has been put together this season. The list features the 100 clubs with the best form from established leagues around the world based on points won.
· On 79, the Gers’ are ten points ahead of any other club, with Internacional and Flamengo of the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A making up the top three. This further highlights the incredibly impressive campaign Rangers are having.
· Antwerp are having a decent season themselves and currently sit 2nd in the Belgian league. The do however go in to tonight with a self-proclaimed ‘injury crisis’ at the club.
· Antwerp boss Franky Vercauteren has admitted he is ‘worried’ with as many as 7 first-team players expected to miss out. Key man Lamkel Ze misses out through suspension while Faris Haroun, top scorer Dieumerci Mbokani, Alexis De Sart, Jean Butez miss out through injury. There are also doubts over Birger Verstraete and Dylan Batubinsika.
· Vercauteren said the best case scenario for his side is they will be able to name 18 players in the squad for this evening which highlights the number of shortcomings.
· Other than that Gerrard appears to have a fully fit squad and I expect they will secure victory tonight against a severely depleted Antwerp side.
Braga vs Roma – Over 2.5 goals
· Expecting a classic in Portugal as these two traditionally attacking sides clash horns this evening.
· Both clubs impressed in progressing through the Europa League group stage, with Carlos Carvalhal’s men finishing runners-up to Leicester City and his old friend Paulo Fonseca’s team topping Group A.
· Roma have been a thrilling watch under the stewardship of Paulo Fonseca and are encouraged to play attacking football. Their potent attack averages in excess of 2 goals scored per game in Serie A.
· The problems for them very much lie at the other end having conceded 35 times in just 22 games. Despite sitting 3rd that is the worst defensive record amongst the top 10 in Italy.
· Their games average a massive 3.73GPG on average- comfortably the highest in the entire Italian top tier. They also have a 77% success rate for over 2.5 goals, again the highest in Italy.
· Braga meanwhile were the entertainers of the Europa League in the group stages with 24 goals (14 scored, 10 conceded) featuring across their 6 group games at an average of 4 goals per game.
· They also have the 2nd highest over 2.5 goals record in the Portuguese league which is an encouraging stat.
· Statistically goals look a near guarantee in this one. Both sides are at full strength offensively and I expect over 2.5 goals shouldn’t cause us too many issues in this one.
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