The Europa League is entering the closing rounds of the competition and the quality of teams still involved illustrates how strong the tournament is this season. With 8 ties kicking off this week, Manchester United, Manchester City, Valencia and Atletico Madrid head the outright market, but where is the value in this Round?
Metalist v Olympiakos
Olympiakos have already done enough in their European competitions this season to suggest that a trip to Metalist of the Ukraine is winnable. The Greek side picked up wins at both Marseille and Rubin Kazan, and also beat Borussia Dortmund at home. Their defensive record in Europe is impressive, and the price about them winning the away tie merits attention. Ukrainian football has been on a steady up curve over recent years, but this season, only Metalist remain from the 6 sides who qualified for Europe, and their route to this stage of the tournament was not as testing as it could have been. The Even money on Olympiakos to qualify in the tie is also worth noting.
Sporting Lisbon v Manchester City
Form lines are often difficult to judge when comparing teams from different Leagues. In this tie however there are better clues. Manchester City faced Porto in the previous round, coming through 6-1 on aggregate. Sporting lie 14 points behind Porto in the Portuguese Liga, so City are red hot favourites to progress against seemingly weaker Portuguese opposition. At odds-on away from home however, the Citizens are not attractively priced, and it is the Over/Under market that throws up some value. Sporting have only failed to score in just one fixture at home all season (including a 2-1 win versus Lazio), and with City winning 2-1 in Portugal against Porto, odds-against in the Over 2.5 market looks value.
FC Twente v Schalke 04
The domestic form of these two sides is chalk and cheese. FC Twente have won their last 5, including an eye catching 6-2 win away to PSV Eindhoven last time out. Schalke meanwhile have won just one of the last 7, including three straight away defeats. The German side have tended to lose against the stronger opposition in the Bundesliga – they have lost four from five against teams above them. Twente are full of confidence and when these sides met in 2008, the Dutch team prevailed 2-1. The hosts look good value to grab an early lead to take to Germany.