Europa League Round of 32 Best Bets For 2/16/23: Barcelona Vs. Manchester United, Ajax Vs. Union Berlin
Europa League Best Bets (2/16/23)
It’s time to look towards Europe’s second-biggest competition, the Europa League. On Thursday, third-place finishers from Champions League groups and second-place sides from the Europa League group stage will kick off the knock-out stage, with a spot in the last 16 on the line. Let’s take a look at some of the best bets across a few key matches.
Barcelona vs. Manchester United
These are about the two biggest teams you’ll ever see in a Europa League play-off match, and both are in pretty solid form. United have hit their stride under Manager Erik ten Hag, while Xavi has also settled in at Barça, who have built a solid lead atop La Liga. This one’s a tough one to call; Barcelona’s defense has been sturdy all year, and United have scored multiple goals in each of their past 7 matches, so I’m not sure where to go for the goalscoring line. I do like both teams to score at -145, it’s not eye-popping odds but with a United attack in good form, and Barça playing at home, it should hit. These teams are pretty even in my eyes, both in terms of overall level and current form, but with some home-field advantage, and more of their top personnel available (United will be missing suspended centre-back Lisandro Martínez, among others) I’m going to have to give Barcelona the nod on the moneyline.
Best Bets: Barcelona -130, Both Teams to Score -145
Ajax vs. Union Berlin
Here’s a clash between sides who have found themselves in relatively surprising places in the title race, albeit for different reasons. Before the season, Berlin wouldn’t have expected to be a factor at all, but now they’re just a point behind league leaders Bayern, and are riding a 5-match league winning streak since returning from the World Cup. Several Bundesliga contenders have had big games of late, but with a huge clash with Bayern on the horizon, Berlin have withstood every test thus far. Ajax, on the other hand, are in third place, three points away from their customary place at the top of the table. They have by far the best goal differential in the league, but were equal parts inconsistent and unlucky throughout a remarkable six match draw streak in the league that straddled either side of the World Cup. They’re back in the wins now, averaging 4 goals per match across their past 3 in the league. I do believe that their good form will continue at home, and their end of the moneyline is one of my favorite wagers on this match. I also like the over; Ajax does not have the elite defense of years past, and Berlin’s attack is in sneaky-good form, scoring multiple goals in each of those 5 recent league wins.
Best Bets: Ajax -105, o2.5 goals (-105)
RB Salzburg vs. Roma
Here’s an interesting one; Roma’s got more talent, and a legendary European manager in José Mourinho, but they’re wrapped up in an intense top four battle. Meanwhile, Salzburg have been absolutely dominant on both ends of the pitch in league play, and have the title comfortably in their sights. They were a tough out in one of the most even groups in the UCL, and like Roma, could prove to be tough competition in the Europa knockout stages. One thing to look out for is the Salzburg attack; it may not be quite as legit as their stout defense, as they scored exactly one goal in their first five UCL matches, and none in the sixth. Roma have also been more of a defense-first side in league competition, but they were a bit all over the place in the group stage of this competition. Still, all signs point to the under; the last time Roma allowed multiple goals in a league match against a team other than Napoli or Milan was way back in September, and their attacking form has been less than consistently strong. As far as the result of the match, the all-sided plus-odds makes it tough to bet a double result, and it’s hard to be comfortable with any end of the moneyline. If the match really is low-scoring, it’s not hard to envision a 1-1 or 0-0 result, but at the same time I’m not comfortable betting a draw when I see a clear better side. That brings me to the infamous draw no bet prop, where I like Roma; pick up some cash with a win, no harm no foul if the match does end level.
Best Bets: u2.5 goals (+105), Roma Draw No Bet (-120)
Juventus vs. Nantes
Juve have been in the news for all of the wrong reasons; most recently for a major points deduction tied to financial violations, and before that, a truly dreadful UCL Group Stage in which they won a single game, lost all the rest, and just barely secured third place over Maccabi Haifa on the third tiebreaker. Now, they’ve finally caught a break; they’ve drawn Nantes, who limped to second place in a weak Europa League group, and currently sit in 13th in Ligue Un. So it’s not a matter of the result, especially with the match taking place in Turin. It’s about where we can find value, and for me, this match is a great opportunity for a same game parlay. Both of these teams have defended better than they’ve attacked, so I’m going to pick NO on the “both teams to score” prop, as I think Nantes are going to get shut out. That being said, Juve should be able to find at least a couple of goals at home against a side allowing over a goal per match in Ligue Un, so I’m going to select the over 1.5 goals for Juve’s team total. It’s a simple two-leg parlay, which you can spice up a bit by including an anytime goalscorer leg- Angel Di Maria and Federico Chiesa are both enticing in plus-odds. But I think the modest two-leg version is a solid way to grab value in a match that shouldn’t be too competitive.
Best Bet: SGP- Both Teams to Score: NO, Juventus Team Total o1.5 (+165 parlay odds)