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Europa League Betting: Chelsea set for a tight tussle in Bucharest

Chelsea's Fernando Torres is on another cold streak

"Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez is cautious by nature when it comes to European competition, especially in away matches. I suspect Chelsea will adopt a similar approach to the one they used in Prague – nullifying the hosts with spells of possession and trying to nick something on the break."

Back Under 2.5 Goals at 1.84/5

Our Europa League man Kevin Hatchard has picked out the best bets from four Europa League matches, including Chelsea's trip to face Steaua Bucharest.


Steaua Bucharest vs Chelsea, Thu 18:00 BST, Live on ESPN

Match Odds: Steaua 3.9n/a, Chelsea 2.166/5, the draw 3.55/2

Chelsea stumbled through the round-of-32 with two deeply unconvincing displays against Sparta Prague. After a yawn-inducing 1-0 away win, Chelsea were heading for an embarrassing home defeat before Eden Hazard's late stunner spared the Blues the ignominy of extra-time. Conversely, Steaua covered themselves in glory with a stirring fightback against Ajax. The Romanians trailed 2-0 from the first leg, but won by the same scoreline in Bucharest before triumphing on penalties.

Steaua's second-leg performance against Ajax showed they can be a dangerous outfit at this level, but they have also thrown in some horror shows. They lost 5-1 at home to Stuttgart in the group stage, and in the qualifiers they suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Slovakian side Spartak Trnava. Steaua are the runaway leaders of the Romanian league, and they have won 11 out of 11 at home, conceding four goals.

Steaua have most of their key players available, with striker Stefan Nikolic (knee) the most notable absentee. Chelsea may be tempted to rest some big names ahead of Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United, and both Victor Moses and Ramires have been left at home. Demba Ba is cup-tied, so the misfiring Fernando Torres will be at the vanguard of the attack - the Spaniard has scored just two goals in his last 17 appearances, both against lower-division opposition in the FA Cup.

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez is cautious by nature when it comes to European competition, especially in away matches. I suspect Chelsea will adopt a similar approach to the one they used in Prague - nullifying the hosts with spells of possession and trying to nick something on the break. On that basis I think backing Under 2.5 Goals is sensible, and I would back the draw at Half Time at 2.1411/10.

Recommended Bets

Back Under 2.5 Goals at 1.84/5

Back the draw at Half Time at 2.1411/10


Levante vs Rubin Kazan, Thu 20:05 BST

Match Odds: Levante 2.3811/8, Rubin 3.55/2, the draw 3.3512/5

Levante are safely ensconced in the middle third of the La Liga table, so they can focus all of their efforts on the Europa League. The Valencia-based outfit's progress to the last 16 has been one of the fairytales of this season's competition. Juan Ignacio Martinez' men are enjoying their first ever European adventure, and they have progressed thanks to a series of gritty, sweat-soaked displays.

Levante's home form in the Europa League has been outstanding. They have won four of their five games at the Ciutat de Valencia, keeping clean sheets in all four victories. Even in the game they failed to win, they showed determination in fighting back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Hannover 96. Veteran midfielder Jose Barkero has excelled, racking up five assists in nine games.

As well as The Frogs have performed, they need to step things up a level if they are to overcome Rubin Kazan. The Russians dumped out the holders Atletico Madrid in the previous round, largely thanks to a 2-0 first-leg win in the Spanish capital. In a bizarre contest, Rubin scored early, had a man sent-off in the first half, but then grabbed a second on the break when Atleti keeper Sergio Asenjo inexplicably went up for a 95th-minute corner.

Rubin's away form in the Europa League has been pretty solid. They avoided defeat in all three of their away group games, including a 2-2 draw at Inter Milan. I think this game will be really tight - backing No in the Both Teams to Score market has paid out in nine of Rubin's last ten games, and it's worth a look this time at 1.9520/21.

Recommended Bet

Back No in the Both Teams to Score market at 1.9520/21


Viktoria Plzen vs Fenerbahce, Thu 18:00 BST

Match Odds: Plzen 2.26/5, Fener 3.7511/4, the draw 3.55/2

Czech side Viktoria Plzen's results in this competition have been stunning. Their 5-0 aggregate demolition of Napoli in the previous round raised eyebrows across Europe, and they have won all seven of their Europa League home games, conceding just one goal in the process.

Plzen will be oozing with confidence, but they may find Fenerbahce a tough nut to crack. The Turkish giants are unbeaten on their travels in the Europa League, and in the last 32 they dug in for a 0-0 draw at BATE Borisov despite having Raul Meireles sent off after just three minutes. Fener have kept clean sheets in their last three Europa League away games, and I like the look of backing No in the Both Teams to Score market at 1.981/1. It could be a tight game with defences on top, so back the draw at Half Time at 2.166/5.

Recommended Bets

Back No in the Both Teams to Score market at 1.981/1

Back the draw at Half Time at 2.166/5


Stuttgart vs Lazio, Thu 18:00 BST

Match Odds: Stuttgart 2.245/4, Lazio 3.613/5, the draw 3.55/2

The first thing that strikes me about this game is that Stuttgart are way too short for the win. The Swabians have been extremely inconsistent since the turn of the year, and they have won just three out of ten games in 2013. One of those victories was a home win against second-tier side Bochum, one was at Hoffenheim (one of the Bundesliga's worst sides) and the other was admittedly a fine 2-0 victory at Racing Genk in the previous round of the Europa League. VfB's home form has been particularly poor - that Bochum success was their only win in five since Christmas at the Mercedes Benz Arena. To make matters worse, star striker Vedad Ibisevic is suspended.

Lazio are yet to taste defeat in this season's Europa League, and they have managed decent draws at Spurs and Borussia Monchengladbach. Although their away form in Serie A isn't great (four wins from 13 games), I am swayed by coach Vladimir Petkovic's commitment to the competition. He has consistently selected strong line-ups, and if he does so again I think the Romans will be too strong for Stuttgart. Either lay the Germans, or back Lazio Draw No Bet at 2.466/4.

Recommended Bet

Back Lazio Draw No Bet at 2.466/4

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06 March 2013

Europa League

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