Europa League – 1 April 2014

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

With no English interest left in Europe’s secondary competition you could be forgiven for missing that it reaches the quarter-final stage this week.  The Iberian Peninsula is well represented with Sevilla, Valencia, Benfica and Porto, whilst Holland’s AZ Alkmaar, France’s Lyon, Italy’s Juventus and FC Basel, who have proven to be no Swiss rollovers, complete the line up.

Juventus, the runaway leaders of Serie A are expected to land the trophy and Lyon seem unlikely to stand in their way during ITV4’s Thursday night offering. The French side are a mighty 28 points off leaders PSG domestically and arrive into this game with three defeats in four. The Old Lady themselves suffered their first defeat in 15 to Rafa Benitez’s Napoli, but prior to that had won five games on the road without conceding. It may not be a goal fest but we can’t see Lyon having enough to stop Juventus taking a narrow lead. We’ll back the Italians at 8/11 with Ladbrokes.

Benfica were losing finalists last season and they’ll believe they can go one better as they travel as firm favourites to AZ Alkmaar. Only goal difference kept them away from the round of 16 in the Champions League and indeed since exiting the Champions League back in November, they’ve won a remarkable 22 of 26 games, helping them develop a seven-point lead at the top of the Portuguese Liga. Alkmaar, down in 7th in the Eredivisie have just one win in their last five, but have saved their best for Europe this year – going all ten games since the start of the Group Stages without defeat. Nine of those ten games saw under 2.5 goals, which looks value at 1.95 on Betfair.

Basel reached the Semi-Finals of this competition back in 2012/13 and whilst Valencia are 4/11 favourites with PaddyPower to qualify, we think there’s value on the Swiss who are 15 games without defeat. After dropping out the Champions League, Basel have eased past Maccabi Tel Aviv and Salzburg, but La Liga’s ninth placed Valencia will undoubtedly be a bigger test. We can’t however justify Valencia being favourites to come and win in Switzerland and we’ll lay them to win the game at 2.36 on Betfair. We advise backing Basel to qualify at 2/1 with Bet365.

Porto are favourites to make the final four against a Sevilla side who still have an outside chance of crashing La Liga’s top four. The feel good factor of beating Real Madrid a week ago may have been dented by a 1-0 loss at Celta Vigo three days later, but there’s undoubted talent in this side. Porto are 10/11 with PaddyPower to win this first leg and that’s a little short for us, so we’ll take Sevilla or the Draw at Evens with Bet365. Betfair’s price of 2.4 on Sevilla to qualify is enough to tempt us in as well.

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