The quality of the Europa League continues to improve with every year and this season is no exception with European giants such as Arsenal and AC Milan in the competition. There depth in this competition is remarkable with close to half of the sides having played in the Champions League over the last 5 years. The Wolf is expecting some of the sides, like Arsenal, to leave some of their stars on then sidelines and we could see some upsets as a result. The Wolf gives us his thoughts and analysis for Matchday 1.
Europa League Matchday 1 Previews
Atalanta v Everton – (Fri 3:00am)
It’s been a mixed start to the season for Everton who have picked up just a single point from their last 3 EPL fixtures after having won on opening day. There is no need to be alarmed though as they have faced Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham in a horror stretch. It doesn’t get any easier for them as they travel to Old Trafford on the weekend to take on top of the table Man Utd. Atalanta have been put in a similar scenario in the Serie A after facing Roma and Napoili – arguably the two best sides in the league apart from Juventus. Everton will have their work cut out for them away from home. The Toffees have won just 5 of their last 14 away matches in this competition compared to 7 in their last 8 at home. The Wolf says they will need to keep an eye on two players in particular. Cornelius plays the target role very effectively for the Italian side, is good in the air and has a very tidy left boot while Gomez will pull the strings in midfield with his sublime supply. Wolfy is expecting Koeman to set up with the double holders in midifeld and that makes for a very tight affair. The Unders is 4-0 in Everton’s 4 road games this season so don’t expect any fireworks in this one.
Best: Under 2.5 goals ($1.65)
Value: Draw ($3.10)
Austria Vienna v AC Milan – (Fri 3:00am)
The rebuilding process continues at AC Milan as the club look to return to European glory. This competition is not beyond them according to The Wolf, especially with a great blend of youth and experience. They paid more than enough for Bonucci but he will bring both leadership and a winning culture to their defensive line. Biglia and Montelivo are the level heads in the centre of the park while Suso and Cutrone are two names that we will be hearing a lot more of in the years to come. Suso in particular has a bullet left foot and is lethal from set pieces – a bit like Alavaro Recoba for those who go as far back as Wolfy. AC were dominant in the qualifiers reeling off 4 straight wins without conceding. Vienna are winless in their last 5 Europa League fixtures at home and have failed to score in 3 of those games. The Wolf is expecting Milan to put on a clinical defensive display and starve the hosts of possession.
Best: Teams To Score – AC Milan Only ($2.60)
Value: Correct Score AC Milan 2-0 ($8.00)
Arsenal v FC Koln – (Fri 5:05am)
The Wolf has a suggestion for Arsene Wenger -play a complete second string line up in every Europa group game and focus solely on the Premier League. With Ozil and Sanchez coming off contract at season’s end (and likely to depart) the Gunners will not have a better chance for a run at the league title. Their youth squad should be able to account for Koln and it is the perfect chance to give game time to rotation players such as Elneny, Walcott and Iwobi. In addition, as we have seen in the past sides that play in the Europa League have one or even two days less rest that those backing up from the UCL. All eyes will definitely be on the trip to Stamford Bridge which follows this match. Sanchez may be given a stint late for fitness more than anything else but outside of The Wolf will be shocked if we see Ozil or Lacazette. Koln have lost their opening 3 matches of the Bundesliga season and sit dead last on the ladder. The Wolf says to stick to the total and to keep an eye on team lineups. If for some reason Wenger plays full strength roll out the 5 chips and back the Gunners every which way.
Best: Over 2.5 goals ($1.61)
Value: Over 3.5 goals ($2.60)
Hertha Berlin v Athletic Bilbao – (Fri 5:05am)
The Wolf has not been shy to criticise Matthew Leckie for his performances in Socceroo colours but there can be no denying his efforts for club side Hertha Berlin. He has scored all 3 of his sides goals in the league and has been able to constantly isolate defenders one on one. His performances are keeping former Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou out of the side but we have seen the Ivorian come on and play on the opposite wing. Bilbao have been very consistent in recent years. They have finished no worse than 7th in La Liga in the last 4 years, were runners up in this competition in 2012 and have been in the knockout stages in each of the last three years. It all comes down to their defence! They are yet to concede in La Liga this season and have conceded multiple goals in just 1 of their last 10 league games. Hard to see Hertha breaking them down.
Best: Under 2.5 goals ($1.65)
Value: Both Teams To Score – No ($1.90)