The Europa League is like the dodgy Christmas present your Nan gets you after you’ve just been handed flight vouchers, decent aftershave and six boxes of Quality Street. You know she means well, but it does tend to pale in comparison. Well, let me tell you – this year, Nan has come up trumps against all the odds.
Well, she hasn’t really; I’m just rather excited that Dundalk are in the Europa League group stages and who can blame me. We get to watch Chris Shields slap Dani Ceballos around the Emirates in a few weeks folks, and it’s going to be an absolute marvel.
Anyway, you don’t expect football before 6pm on a Thursday, but, presumably, thanks to a UEFA masterstroke, we’ve now got it at five minutes to the hour. Rangers and Arsenal round off a glorious trilogy of British and Irish interest in the early kickoffs, and to say I fancy mixed fortunes would be an understatement.
Maybe Arsenal should nip down to League 2, and Dundalk should play in the Leinster Senior League for a while so they can match the prowess of Rangers. Or just move to Scotland, I suppose. Here’s your winning treble, folks.
Look, it’s not that I want Dundalk to do badly in Europe; it’s very much the opposite. But I’ve seen almost every game they’ve played this year and they’re miles below even their own standards from last year.
They were blessed with the easiest route any Irish side has ever had to the group stages of European competition, and while that can’t be held against them, it does very much stand up as a formline worth noting.
Oh, and while the Europa League will always be a priority for Irish sides, Dundalk do play about ten games in a 30-day span, so there’s that. I think there’s value to be had backing the away side Molde (-1) on the handicap in this one.
I’m telling you – this Arsenal team are genuinely very good, and maybe they’ll need the change of scenery to prove it.
While many will laugh at their eternal inconsistency (isn’t that a form of consistency, actually?) and say they’re not making strides, it does stand to reason that Mike Arteta is at least changing the culture at the club, and usually results follow.
Once Arsenal can keep Taxiarchis Fountas quiet, there’s honestly very little threat to be had from a team not set up to play on the break – which they’re going to have to in this fixture. An Arsenal Win looks like bread and butter.
While many might read that as being too familiar with Rangers and not familiar enough with Standard Liege’s shenanigans, I assure you it isn’t.
I used to have to analyse Belgian football in my old gig, I promise. Bar a 3-0 win over this year’s surprise package Beerschot, Standard can’t find separation between them and the teams so clearly below them, resulting in them dropping points in nearly half their Pro League games thus far.
While you may argue that Rangers are playing in a lesser league, you also cannot begin to debate just how drilled they are, and how there’s various outlets for goals. Steven Gerrard in Europe? We know how this goes. Rangers Win here on Thursday.
Tips for the early Europa League kickoffs on Thursday at 17:55
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