Europa League Best Bets (2/23/23)
After yet another action-packed Europa League Thursday, we’re all set for the second legs of the play-off round. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting ties and make some picks.
Manchester United vs. Barcelona
This matchup was undoubtedly the most hyped-up coming into this round- two European giants, who would usually be found playing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, clashing in this stage of this competition is pretty special. And they delivered, with a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou being the result. Now, back at Old Trafford, they’ll decide a winner, and for me, that has to be the home team. Barcelona probably have more talent and are surely having a better domestic season, but the inability to win the first leg in their own house is pretty troubling. Moreover, Marcus Rashford is beyond in-form, after scoring against Barca he picked up another brace over the weekend.
He won’t be stopped, I like him to score and help his team secure the win. The goalscoring total is a bit tougher; the last game was wide open, but with qualification now within reach, I could definitely see the first team to score (United, I’d predict) sitting back and playing a lot of defense as they work to protect their lead and advance. Both defenses have plenty of talent, and they could easily put forth a display that makes the first leg look like an anomaly.
Best Bets: Man United +135, u2.5 goals (-110), Marcus Rashford anytime goalscorer (+185)
Monaco vs. Bayer Leverkusen
After winning on the road in a thrilling first leg, Monaco will be looking to possess, defend, and move on. They should know that they were slightly lucky to win, scoring 3 goals despite racking up an xG of just .73, compared to Leverkusen’s 1.84. The German side also took more shots (17 to 10) and created more big chances, so despite the positive result, it’s likely that Monaco will need to play a bit better if they’re going to advance. That being said, I believe that they will. They’re right behind PSG as the best goalscoring side in France, and neither team has a particularly special defense, so I don’t see the goal-fest in the first leg as much of an aberration.
If I had to pick a side of the goalscoring total, the over could be in play once again, but given the scenario, this game could be a bit more cagey and stay under; I wouldn’t touch the total. Speaking of the situation, Monaco don’t need a win to move on, so I really like the value of the draw at +270. I’d be interested in the both teams to score prop; if Monaco score first, they can afford to allow a Leverkusen goal, for which the visitors would be fighting hard, and if Leverkusen are able to score first, it’s a wide open game, with the score level and both teams pushing for that key next goal.
Best Bets: Draw +270, Both Teams to Score YES (-175)
Roma vs. RB Salzburg
After a tense first leg, neither of the teams were able to relax over the weekend as they played to fairly nervy wins in their domestic competitions against clearly inferior opponents. These are two defensive teams, as I highlighted in the first-leg preview, and the under continues to be a great play. This is particularly true as Salzburg will be sitting back after picking up a late goal to give them the lead heading into Rome; it’s really hard to expect a wide-open match full of goals given not just the teams, but the circumstances in which they find themselves. Still, we’re talking about José Mourinho in Europe with his back against the wall- I can’t think of a better man for the moment, and his side have had a good home record of late.
This could very well be another 1-0 match after 90 minutes, with the winner decided in extra time or penalties, and when you consider the approach that both teams are likely to take in this one, you have to favor Roma to pick up that key goal to force a little more football. For yet another way to invest in a low-scoring match, betting “No” on the Both Teams to Score prop is a good play; I could see Roma getting defensive after leveling the match, and this wager also protects you in the event that they are once again frustrated and held off of the scoresheet.
Best Bets: Roma -155, u2.5 goals (-140), Both Teams to Score NO (-125)
Union Berlin vs. Ajax
In the first leg, I was all over the over, and it did not go well as the match ended as a scoreless draw in Amsterdam. All of the trends that led me to suggest that still exist, except for the mini-slump Berlin have found themselves in; they limped through another 0-0 match, this time with last-place Schalke. Ajax on the other hand ran rampant this weekend, winning 4-0 in domestic competition; after they let me down a week ago, I’m going to pick them again to win this match in hostile territory and advance to the next round. Both teams are still wrapped up in major title races, with Ajax still three points out but now in second place, and Berlin are actually in third place, but only by virtue of goal difference as they’ve joined Bayern and Dortmund in a three-way tie atop the table in terms of points.
Of course, that could change in an instant; Berlin play at Bayern over the weekend, which of course makes it hard for me to be confident that they’ll be 100% locked in for this match, both mentally and in terms of personnel allocation. Where I will change my tune this time is the scoring total; it’s tough to score on the road, and Berlin are not exactly inspiring confidence when it comes to the attack. This match will be fiercely contested and certainly one to watch, but I don’t think it’ll be full of scoring- I like the road side in a low-scoring one.
Best Bets: Ajax +220, u2.5 goals (-150)