Aberdeen v Burnley: Burnley to Win to Nil – 15/8
Burnley’s reward for their seventh-place finish is a mid-July trip to Aberdeen for a Europa League qualifier first leg.
They make the journey north without some notable names – Robbie Brady, Steven Defour and Ashley Barnes are all absent – though Nick Pope is available to play in goal despite just returning to training this week after the World Cup.
The Clarets haven’t let the cash flow in the transfer market this summer, not signing anyone so far. Their success last season was largely built on a similarly stable defensive resilience, so their opponents here will do well to get on the scoreboard.
For Aberdeen, their second-place finish last season in the Scottish Premier League will be hard to replicate given some of the departures from their squad, especially Adam Rooney, their top scorer in the last campaign, who has left for the greener pastures of, err, Salford City.
Under 2.5 goals looks nailed on at 4/9, but we’d prefer something bigger. Burnley To Win to Nil at 15/8 appeals as Aberdeen do not carry a goal threat.
Sevilla v Újpest: Sevilla -2 – 4/5
Given their record in the competition – winning it five times since 2006 – you’d think Sevilla would be entitled to an honorary spot in the group stages of the Europa League, but they’ve to go through the indignity of the qualifying stages this season.
They take on the Hungarian side at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in the first leg of their qualifying tie tonight, and the expectation must be that their superior quality will show.
Újpest lost the first leg of their previous round tie against Neftçi of Azerbaijan 3-1, while turning around such a deficit in the second leg is admirable, a similar away day mess against these opponents could see them ship a heavy defeat.
Several handicaps and overs options appeal, the safest at a reasonable price is Sevilla -2 at 4/5 on the alternative handicap. Even if Sevilla aren’t at their best they should have more than enough to cover that margin and end the tie tonight.
Osijek v Rangers: Osijek win – 6/5
The Scottish side go into this tie having overcome Macedonian opposition in the previous round thanks to a 2-0 win at Ibrox and a nil-all draw in the second leg.
If they’re to progress past another Balkan side they’ll need to rely on a similar formula in our view because Osijek’s record in recent seasons in European competition is imposing at this stage of the competition.
Last season saw them dispose of PSV Eindhoven in the third Europa League qualifying round, where Rangers lost to Progrès Niederkorn of Luxembourg in the opening round.
Getting a stage further will give Steven Gerrard’s new charges confidence, as, surely, must the mere presence of himself and Gary McAllister on the staff now, but they’re still an inexperienced side at this level, whereas Osijek have won seven of their last ten games in European contests.
Rangers could still turn this around in Glasgow, but Osijek should have enough to get a win here. We’d back them at 6/5.
*All odds correct at time of posting