It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which unfortunately means the group phases of all European competitions must come to an end.
Even better than its Champions League cousin, tonight’s Europa League finale has plenty on the line for Irish and British clubs.
None of Dundalk, Manchester United or Southampton’s qualification hopes are safe, but at least for United and Saints their destiny is their own hands.
Rather than mourn the loss of European action for this calendar year, we’ve decided to celebrate it by putting together an accumulator that could deliver for our punters at over 19/1. Here’s who we’ve picked…
There’s been question marks aplenty over whether this game will go ahead or not, thanks to a frozen pitch in Odessa.
The game is being held in the Chornomorets Stadium over 900km from Zorya’s home ground over security concerns, thanks the proximity of Luhansk to the Russian border. United do know though a point from Ukraine could be to stave off the treat of Feyenoord.
As the competition could represent United’s best chance of returning to the Champions League, you’d expect Jose Mourinho to go all out for a win here.
Be wary of the handicaps however, as the Reds have only scored more than a goal once in their last seven European outings. Still, we are going with the Red Devils at to open our acca.
Despite some brave performances, Irish champions Dundalk have failed in their quest to add to the four points they grabbed from their first two Europa League outings.
Whatever happens tonight in Israel they are history makers, but things really need to go in their favour to extend the European dream. Stephen Kenny’s men have to hope AZ lose at home to table toppers Zenit, and then a score draw might be enough to see them through.
It is a bit of a long shot for them, but stranger things have happened in football. The game also represents the last hooray for some of Dundalk’s stars, with recent Irish call-ups Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan likely to be moving on after tonight.
The Lillywhites have been lacking of competitive football for over a month now and we believe that will be their Achilles heel tonight. Unfortunately, we have to go Maccabi Tel Aviv at .
The Saints have gone about their Europa League campaign quietly, but a home victory is probably a must at St Marys if they are to continue their adventures in Europe.
The only other result that takes Southampton through is a 0-0 draw, so being defensively tight will form the crux of Claude Puel’s pre-match speech.
Have no doubt Beer Sheva are no pushovers, these Israelis done the double over Inter Milan in the group don’t you know!
Still we’d expect the Saints to give this their full attention and advance with a narrow win at .
We’ll round out our acca with a quick hop through the continent, starting in Romania with the meeting of West Ham’s conquerors Astra Giurgiu and Roma.
The Italians are home and hosed in the group, so we are going with Astra – who need of a victory to ensure procession – at .
Our final leg brings us to Austria, as Rapid Vienna play host to Athletic Bilbao at the Allianz Stadion.
We think Bilbao are the perfect way to round out our acca at , given that they only sit a couple of points off the Champions League places in Spain.