Sometimes people can put a bit of a downer on the Europa League, but this year’s competition has thrown up a few fascinating headlines already.
You don’t need to look any further than Irish champions-elect Dundalk for a fairy tale. The Lillywhites became the first Irish side to secure a win in the competition’s history with victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv last time out, locking down some hefty prize money for their coffers in the process.
Manchester United struggles in the competition have been notable and Southampton have used it to pull themselves out of a slump in form.
Tonight’s games represent the half way mark in the Europa League and we’ve assembled a tempting acca for the occasion that pays out at about 27/1.
If you are looking for an indicator on where Jose Mourinho’s priorities lie, then his team selection tonight will tell you all you need to know.
With a return to his former stomping ground of Stamford Bridge on the horizon, he’s likely to rest some players as Man United host Turkish side Fenerbahce. However, after losing to Feyenoord in their opening fixture the Reds also can’t afford to lose this one either, especially with a Champions League place up for grabs for the winner of the Europa League.
United are unbeaten in their last 12 European outings at home and, with Fenerbahce arriving with an aging squad, we’ll take United at to open our acca.
Who would have thought when the group stage draw was made that heading into this match it would be first plays second in the Group D, but here we are.
However, this does look like a step to far for Stephen Kenny’s brave charges, who must be wrecked heading into their seventh game in just 18 days.
It’s not only the fixture list that’s against them tonight, Zenit have not lost a game all season in league or cup. Only goal difference keeps them off the top of the Russian Premier League at the moment and that’s why we believe, unfortunately, the Lillywhites will fall to Zenit at in Tallaght.
It’s amazing to think on this day seven years ago a Mourinho-led Inter were top of Serie A on their way to winning the Champions League, while the Saints were floundering in second bottom of League 1, how times have changed eh?
The Nerazzurri have been utterly dire this season, struggling in 11th position in the league and they’re pointless in the Europa League – losing at home to Israeli outfit Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Sparta Prague away.
Southampton are on a nifty seven-game run without a defeat and will come out of the tunnel in the San Siro full of confidence. Inter however, have managed to find the net in 14 of their last 15 home contests, so we are going to go for the draw here at .
Stretching our acca further afield, we land in Rome for the tie between Roma and Austria Wien.
Italian football legend Francesco Totti will make his 100th appearance for his beloved club should he make it onto the pitch tonight. Roma are on a three-match winning run and should see off the plucky Vennia-based team at .
Ironically Austria is also our acca’s final port of call, as home side Red Bull Salzburg entertain Nice at the Red Bull Arena.
Nice have been far from nice (see what we did there) to the opposition of late, claiming victories in four of their last five and Salzburg haven’t tasted victory in four outings. That has us leaning towards a French fling and with Liverpool reject Mario Balotelli hunting an Italy recall because of his recent upturn in form, our mind is made up – Nice at it is!