The Europa League returns to our screens tomorrow with not only strong interest from English clubs, but somewhat surprisingly from Ireland as well.
Irish champions Dundalk will compete in the Europa League for the first time after agonisingly coming just short of claiming a Champions League spot in the final qualifier.
They are joined in the group stages by Premier League sides Southampton and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United as they all seek to make the final on May 24 next year at the Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden.
All three teams feature in our Europa League acca this week which comes in at a nifty 21/1 for five wins, although it may not make good reading for Dundalk fans.
While there was little glamour in Dundalk’s draw, a tough group is on the cards as they are joined by AZ Alkmaar, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Zenit St Petersburg in Group D.
Thankfully for them, Dundalk begin with the shortest away trip to the Netherlands to face AZ Alkmaar tomorrow.
It’s easy to see why AZ are favourites for the game with our traders, not only is it a step up in class for Dundalk, but the Eredivisie also boast a ferocious home record.
The Dutch side haven’t lost at home since April and they will hope to make it nine games unbeaten there tomorrow.
Dundalk are on a six-match winning run themselves and can be backed at , but we just can’t see them pulling of the shock here – as much as we’d love it. So we’ll take AZ Alkmaar to kick-off our acca with a win.
As Graham Hunter said in his Paddy Power column, Man United’s Europa League progression really hinges on whether Jose Mourinho fancies trying to win it or not.
They are favourites to lift the trophy, but they face a stern test in the form of Feyenoord tomorrow evening.
Feyenoord have scored five victories out of five in the League this season and are to make it a sixth against the Reds.
You would think however, after defeat in the Manchester derby at the weekend, Mourinho will put out a strong side and we’ll tip them at .
Roma will have been stung by their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Porto after somehow succumbing to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home, losing the tie 4-1 on aggregate.
Given the nature of that defeat and the fact that it’s been announced that club legend Francesco Totti is leaving the club at the end of the season, you would think they’d give the Europa League a right go.
Czech side Viktoria Plzen bowed out of the Champions League at the hands of Ludogorets and have only won once in their last six home games. An away victory for Roma feels likely here at .
A controversial late penalty cost Southampton a point on Saturday at Arsenal and they will see the chance to pick up some much needed momentum tomorrow against Sparta Prague.
Saints midfielder Dusan Tadic’s strike caused his side’s opener against the Gunners, although it did go down as a Petr Cech own goal after coming back off the keepers’ head. He also scored from the penalty spot for Serbia against Ireland and grabbed an assist, so he’s a man on form and not a bad punt to score anytime at .
Prague are no pushovers and did manage an impressive 3-0 away win over Lazio last season, but Southampton’s Premier League quality should tell and we’ll add them at .
French side Nice have had a cracking start to the season in Ligue 1 and have picked up 10 points for four games.
They have also added Liverpool reject Mario Balotelli to their ranks and that move paid off at the weekend as he notched a brace against Marseille, in a 3-2 win.
Schalke have lost both their games so far in the Bundesliga and have failed to score as well. It’s Nice for us then at to round out our five-team acca.