Manchester United’s recent resurgence means Arsenal and Chelsea may both miss out on a top-four spot in the Premier League, so the two London sides may focus on trying to win the Europa League as they attempt to qualify for next term’s Champions League.
The Gunners, 6/1 to win the Europa League outright, will be expected to get the better of BATE Borisov in the round of 32 when they come up against a former player in Thursday’s first leg, as Aleksandr Hleb is currently with the Belarusian side.
Unai Emery’s side have struggled away from home this term – they have only won five of 13 Premier League matches on their travels – and have looked vulnerable defensively all season.
Arsenal win and both teams to score @ 19/10
The Gunners have slipped to defeats at Manchester City, West Ham, Liverpool and Southampton in the last two months, so will be wary of a BATE side that have won their domestic title for 13 seasons in a row.
In the group stage of last season’s Europa League, Arsenal romped to 6-0 and 4-2 victories against BATE and should have enough attacking verve to win another high-scoring affair on Thursday.
Chelsea to draw vs Malmo @ 4/1
Chelsea travel to Sweden to face Malmo on the back of Sunday’s humiliating 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City.
It will not be easy for last season’s FA Cup winners as Malmo, who are coached by the former Leeds United and Brentford boss Uwe Rosler, are very well organised and do not concede many goals.
They finished third in their domestic league last year – after being 12th at one stage – and won through four rounds of Europa League qualifying before finishing ahead of Besiktas in their group to reach the last 32.
Chelsea have lost their last three away games in the Premier League – failing to score in any of them and conceding 12 goals in the process – and Maurizio Sarri is coming increasing pressure.
Chelsea, 4/1 to win the Europa League outright, may well be happy to settle for a draw.
Arsenal and Chelsea will not find it easy to reach the latter stages of the competition, with plenty of top-quality European teams, including Sevilla, Inter Milan, Napoli and Valencia, still involved in the last 32.
Under 1.5 goals – Lazio v Sevilla @ 11/5
Sevilla, winners of the Europa League five times since 2006, face a very tough task after they were drawn against Lazio.
Pablo Machin’s team, who were top of La Liga as recently as November, have stuttered since the turn of the year, slipping to fourth after a disappointing run of one victory in their last seven matches.
Lazio are seventh in Serie A and have won their last two matches. They do not concede many goals – just 25 in 23 league games – and reached the quarter-finals of last season’s Europa League before being surprisingly knocked out by RB Salzburg.
Thursday’s first leg in Rome looks set to be a tight, low-scoring affair.
Napoli to beat Zurich 2-0 @ 19/4
Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti has never won the Europa League as a coach although he did guide AC Milan (twice) and Real Madrid to Champions League glory.
He has a great chance to reach the last 16 this season, though, as FC Zurich should not pose too many problems for his side.
The Serie A outfit are unbeaten in Naples this season and were a little unfortunate not to progress from a Champions League group containing Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool.
FC Zurich won the Swiss Cup in 2017/18 but are only in a mid-table spot in their domestic league this season. They will probably need to win Thursday’s first leg to have any chance of progressing to the last 16, but a draw, available at 7/2, may be the best they can hope for.
Valencia to keep clean sheet @ 17/10
Celtic reached the UEFA Cup final in 2002/03 and the quarter-finals 12 months later. but they have never got past the last-32 stage since the competition was rebranded as the Europa League.
Valencia stand in their way this time and Brendan Rodgers’ team will be keen to build up a big first-leg advantage in Glasgow this week.
After making a sticky start to the campaign, Celtic are in good form and have won their last five league matches without conceding a goal.
Los Che are the draw specialists in La Liga after 13 in their 23 matches to date. They are unbeaten in their last five games and drew 2-2 with Barcelona at the Nou Camp earlier this month.
Goals look set to be at a premium in this tie as Marcelino’s team have only scored 24 times and conceded 20 in La Liga.
Inter to win by two goals @ 3/1
Inter Milan should be too good for Rapid Vienna although it may not be straightforward for Luciano Spalletti’s side after their goals dried up recently.
They are third in Serie A but, incredibly, since a 2-2 draw at Roma in early December, they have picked up 14 points in nine encounters despite only scoring five goals. Inter have only conceded four goals in that time but their failure to find the net on a regular basis will be of serious concern.
Inter have a great opportunity to get among the goals on Thursday when they travel to Austria to face a Rapid Vienna team who have not played since mid-December – and that was a disastrous 6-1 loss in the derby clash with Austria Vienna.
They are eighth of 12 teams in their domestic league, so surely Inter will be able to reach the last 16 of a competition they won three times in the 1990s.
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