New-look Milan may not destroy Macedonian visitors
Milan v Shkendjia
Thursday August 17, 19:45
It hasn't always been easy supporting Milan in recent years, but after years of takeover talk and false dawns, genuine optimism has returned for those who follow the Rossoneri. Chinese investment has sparked a makeover of the squad, and has convinced teenage goalkeeping prodigy Gigio Donnarumma to stay put.
Milan have spent a lot of money strengthening all areas of the squad, but they are also developing their own talents. Teenage striker Patrick Cutrone scored in the previous round against Craiova, as the Romanian side were beaten home and away.
Now Macedonian side Shkendjia stand between Vincenzo Montella's men and the group stage. Their progress so far has been based on strong home form. On the road they drew 1-1 at Finnish side HJK Helsinki, and lost 2-1 at Trakai of Lithuania.
The big question here is whether Milan will absolutely smash their opponents, and I'm not sure they will. A lot of new arrivals are still learning how to play with each other, so while this will be a useful exercise, it might not be a free-flowing display.
On that basis, I'm happy to take a swing at Under 2.5 Goals at 2.3611/8, a bet that has paid out in both of Milan's UEL games so far.
Back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.3611/8
Evens a big price on Bate
BATE Borisov v Oleksandria
Thursday August 17, 18:00
While BATE aren't quite as domestically dominant as usual at the moment (they are third in the Belarussian top flight), they are a still a team to be respected, especially on home soil. This season they have won 11 of their 13 competitive games at the Borisov Arena, including a 2-1 win over Slavia Prague in the Champions League qualifiers.
Ukrainian outfit Oleksandria tend to struggle on the road. In all competitions, they've haven't won on the road since November, and they have lost six of their last ten away games.
BATE are trading at above evens to win here, so let's take advantage.
Back BATE Borisov to win at 2.021/1
Hagi's young guns can give Red Bull a fright
Viitorul Constanta v Red Bull Salzburg
Thursday August 17, 19:45
Gheorghe Hagi was already regarded as an extraordinary man before his adventure with Viitorul Constanta began. He had sparkled as a player not just for Romania, but for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Galatasaray.
His coaching career had been unremarkable, until he decided to create his own club in 2009. Having founded Viitorul Constanta, he decided to use it to give youngsters an opportunity, and the club worked in conjunction with a youth academy he had set up.
The rise of Viitorul has been meteoric. They quickly rose through the Romanian ranks, and last season they won the league title. Incredibly, glory was secured with a squad with an average age of just over 22.
Viitorul were beaten in extra-time by seasoned European campaigners APOEL in the Champions League, but I believe they can give Red Bull Salzburg a run for their money. The Austrians have yet again failed to make the group stage of the Champions League, after two draws against Rijeka saw them crash out on away goals.
This is something of a leap of faith given Viitorul's lack of European experience, but Salzburg have only won two of their last seven away games in Europe, and they are too short here.
Lay Red Bull Salzburg at 1.8910/11
Entertainment assured in Macedonia
Vardar Skopje v Fenerbahce
Thursday August 17, 19:00
Macedonian side Vardar Skopje have been a lot of fun so far this summer. In the Champions League qualifiers, they beat Malmo 4-2 on aggregate, but lost to Copenhagen by the same aggregate scoreline.
Fenerbahce have made a lively start to their campaign, and both of their away games this term have seen an Over 2.5 Goals bet land. They have scored and conceded in all three of their competitive matches so far.
At odds of 1.814/5, I'm happy to back Over 2.5 Goals. Given that Vardar have already beaten Malmo and Copenhagen in Skopje, I'll lay the visitors too.
Back Over 2.5 Goals at 1.814/5
Lay Fenerbahce at 1.51/2