Arsenal vs Napoli, Thursday 8pm
Arsenal gave themselves a scare in the last round by losing the first leg of their tie with Rennes 3-1, but an accomplished home display ensured that they qualified, with a 3-0 win. They have lost both of away legs of their knockout matches so far, relying on strong home performances to turn things around, so it may help that they play at home first here, as they have the firepower to give themselves a lead heading into the away leg.
In their five home games, the Gunners have averaged an impressive 2.09 x GF per game, and they need to get close to that if they are to have a chance of progressing past this strong Napoli team.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side were also given a scare in the last round, as they made the trip to Austria 3-0 up on Salzburg, but left with a slender 4-3 win on aggregate, after a poor defensive display. According to expected goals, they were fortunate to qualify, as Salzburg generated the better of the chances over the two legs. That was also the case against the much lesser ranked FC Zürich away from home.
The Italians are vulnerable.
This tie is the most evenly matched according to the Infogol model, with Arsenal just favourites ahead of the first leg. Paddy make Napoli odds-on favourites to progress, but we think the value lies in backing the Gunners.
Verdict: Arsenal to qualify for the semi finals @ 13/10
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Benfica vs Frankfurt, Thursday 8pm
Benfica needed extra time to beat Dinamo Zagreb in the Last 16, though they were very fortunate to qualify according to expected goals, as Zagreb actually generated the better of the chances over the two legs.
They have performed well up to that point in Europe this season, impressing against Galatasaray, but will need to improve ahead of this tie against a very talented Frankfurt side who caused one of the upsets of the competition by knocking out one of the tournament favourites, Inter Milan, in the last round. And deservedly so after an extremely impressive away performance.
They won 1-0 at the San Siro, but could have won by more and possess a really young and impressive front line, that would cause any team in Europe problems.
The Infogol model makes the Germans favourites to advance to the semi’s with a 54.4% chance.
That’s about a percentage pointer higher than the odds being quoted for them to make it to the last four.
Verdict: Frankfurt to qualify for the semi finals @ 13/10
Slavia Prague vs Chelsea, Thursday 8pm
Slavia Prague caused, arguably, the upset of the competition so far by knocking out Sevilla in the last 16 with a dramatic 4-3 win in Prague. However, a closer look at their performances show just how fortunate they were to get through, as they conceded a host of good chances in both legs, but the first leg was the real anomaly.
Not only did Slavia only concede twice from chances, they somehow managed to score twice from their chances, which was extremely fortunate.
If they defend like that against Chelsea – they will be punished.
Maurizio Sarri’s side have made light work of the Europa League so far this season, and romped past Dynamo Kyiv in the last round, winning 8-0 on aggregate after a 5-0 success in Ukraine.
Chelsea are very strong favourites to advance past Slavia Prague – and to win the Europa League outright – as they’ll probably shorten in the betting again for that market in the likelihood they advance.
Verdict: Chelsea to qualify for the semi finals @ 1/10
Villarreal vs Valencia, Thursday 8pm
Expect this to be a competitive and feisty two-legged affair where the all-Spanish tie features the Derbi de la Comunitat.
Villarreal were very fortunate to get past Zenit St Petersburg in the last round, as they were comfortably second-best according to our expected goals model.
Though they would love to get one over on their rivals in this tie, the home side have the more pressing matter of trying to survive in La Liga. They come into this first leg third from bottom and in danger of the drop.
Valencia were deserved winners overall against Krasnodar in the last 16 – though they were going out until a 93rd minute goal from Gonçalo Guedes. They were extremely impressive in the previous round against Celtic, and are a team that create plenty of good scoring chances regularly.
Valencia are rated as the better of these two sides, and have a 63.3% chance of progressing.
We actually make them second favourites to lift the trophy on the Infogol model – but they’re 8/1 in the outright market and that represents good value in anyone’s book.
Verdict: Valencia to qualify @ 1/2
*A four-fold on this Four team to qualify pays just over 6/1 with Paddy Power.
For a more detailed breakdown, check out our Expected Goals Introduction article.