Europa League Betting: Defending champions to start with a bang

Sevilla are the Europa League holders
Sevilla are the Europa League holders
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The Europa League group stage is getting underway, and our regular columnist Kevin Hatchard has been trawling for the best bets...

"Both teams have lost key players over the summer, but Sevilla have started the season in much better fashion than Feyenoord."

Back Sevilla -1.0 & -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at [2.07]


Sevilla v Feyenoord
Thursday September 18, 20:05
Live on BT Sport 2

Sevilla's players were given an unusual reward for winning the Europa League last season, as each player was handed his weight in beer. The squad seem to have shaken off the effect of that gift, as they have made a strong start to the La Liga season. Unai Emery's men are third in the standings after three games, ahead of both Atletico and Real Madrid.

Sevilla's success last season didn't go unnoticed, and they have lost arguably their best two players. Magical playmaker Ivan Rakitic was lured to Barcelona, while rampaging left-back Alberto Moreno eventually completed his protracted switch to Liverpool. Despite those defections, Sevilla have started with a 1-1 draw against Valencia, a 2-1 victory at Espanyol and a 2-0 success at home to Getafe. Sevilla managed to keep Colombian marksman Carlos Bacca out of the clutches of several Premier League clubs, and he has netted two goals in three games.

Feyenoord lost a clutch of key players after the World Cup, including three first-choice defenders and their best striker Graziano Pelle. They have really struggled since coach Ronald Koeman moved to Southampton, and they were incredibly fortunate to even get to the group stage. Only a goal deep into stoppage-time from Elvis Manu saw them avoid an away goals defeat to Ukrainian side Zorya - you might say he left the visitors all shook up and inspired some burning love amongst the home fans (I'm here all week).

In the Champions League qualifiers the Rotterdam side lost home and away to Besiktas, and in the Eredivisie they have collected just five points from five games. Four league goals is a paltry return, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that a huge task lies ahead at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

Recommended Bet
Back Sevilla -1.0 & -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at [2.07]


Rio Ave v Dynamo Kiev
Thursday September 18, 20:05

Rio Ave have proven themselves to be cup specialists over the past year or so, reaching two domestic cup finals in Portugal before losing both to Benfica. Despite the defection of promising coach Nuno Santo to Valencia, Rio Ave have started the season superbly, and are top of their league. New coach Pedro Martins has overseen three wins and a draw in the league, and a dramatic away goals success against Elfsborg in the Europa League playoffs, which saw Rio Ave qualify with a goal in stoppage time at the end of the second leg.

Dynamo Kiev have made an unbeaten start to their Ukrainian league campaign, but they struggled away from home in last season's Europa League, winning just one of their last four road matches. Given how well Rio Ave have started, I can't really understand why Dynamo are priced at [2.12] for the win. Rio Ave have won all three of their home games this term, and I'm happy to back them Draw No Bet at [2.58].

Recommended Bet
Back Rio Ave Draw No Bet at [2.58]


Borussia Monchengladbach v Villarreal
Thursday September 18, 18:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Borussia Monchengladbach have a proud European history, having twice won the UEFA Cup and twice lost in the final. They were also beaten by Liverpool in the European Cup final of 1977. Although it would be a push to suggest Lucien Favre's men can reach the final of the Europa League, I would certainly expect them to have a decent stab of getting out of a group that also includes FC Zurich and Apollon Limassol.

Gladbach are yet to taste defeat this term, and they produced their best performance of the season on Saturday as they demolished Schalke 4-1 in the Bundesliga. The return of striker Max Kruse after a hospital procedure gave the team a huge boost, and his link-up play with Raffael and Andre Hahn was sublime at times. Indeed, that troublesome trio netted all four goals between them.

Although Favre can be a cautious coach sometimes, the club have made a number of exciting attacking signings, and he has been experimenting with a bold 4-3-3 formation in training this week. That formation could utilise the pace of wingers Ibrahima Traore and Patrick Herrmann, and it suggests Gladbach will play on the front foot.

Villarreal have conceded just one goal and scored two in three La Liga games this season, and I suspect that record has pushed the Over 2.5 Goals price above evens. That said, the Yellow Submarine put seven goals past Astana over two legs in the qualifiers, and they made plenty of chances in a recent 0-0 draw in Granada.

Although Gladbach are primarily a counter-attacking team, I don't think they will sit back and settle for a tight game against a good defence. Gladbach do leave gaps at the back sometimes, and I expect chances for both sides.

Recommended Bet
Back Over 2.5 Goals at [2.08]


Red Bull Salzburg v Celtic
Thursday September 18, 18:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Both of these teams are struggling under new management, and have dropped down to the Europa League after failure to qualify for the Champions League. Red Bull have hit a slump after their enterprising coach Roger Schmidt joined Bayer Leverkusen, and after losing 3-0 to Malmo in the Champions League they suffered unthinkable domestic defeats to Sturm Graz and Wolfsberger. The 1-0 reverse at Wolfsberger was particularly damaging for coach Adi Hutter, as the home side played more than 45 minutes with ten men.

Celtic failed not once but twice to get through to the Champions League group stage under new coach Ronny Deila, and their 2-1 aggregate defeat to Maribor was particularly abject. The Bhoys were much improved in the weekend's 2-1 win over Aberdeen, but away from home they have found life tough. Celtic haven't won any of their last three away games, and their only road successes this term have been against St Johnstone and Icelandic minnows KR.

With Hutter's head on the chopping block and both sides short of form and confidence, I'm expecting a scrappy, cautious affair. Four of Celtic's last five games have featured fewer than three goals, and the usually free-scoring Salzburg attack has drawn a blank in two of their last three outings. The market expects goals, but I'm not so sure.

Recommended Bet
Back Under 2.5 Goals at [2.44]


2014/15 Europa League P/L (1pt per bet)

Points Staked: 11

Points Returned: 15.41

P/L: +4.41 points

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