Europa League Betting: Leipzig to learn another harsh lesson

Ralph Hasenhuttl's Leipzig are vulnerable on the road
Ralph Hasenhuttl's Leipzig are vulnerable on the road
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The Europa League is back, and after making a profit from the group stage, Kevin Hatchard's back with his best bets ahead of the knockout phase.

"Leipzig lost two of their three Champions League away games, and they lack experience at this level."

Back Napoli to win at [2.2]

Napoli v RB Leipzig
Thursday February 15, 20:05 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1

It's been a lightning-fast evolution for RB Leipzig. They were only formed in 2009, and only became a Bundesliga club last season. They qualified for the Champions League in their first top-flight campaign, and although they failed to make the last 16 of that competition, they now find themselves in the last 32 of the Europa League.

Leipzig have the youngest squad in the Bundesliga, and those players now face an incredibly stern test away at the Serie A leaders. Napoli are pouring all of their efforts into trying to take the Scudetto away from Juventus, and I think there is an assumption that they won't treat the Europa League as a priority.

However, I think that's a dangerous assumption, and I can't believe that Maurizio Sarri's side are as big as [2.2] to take a first-leg advantage. Leipzig lost at Porto and Besiktas in the UCL, and in all competitions they have lost four of their last eight games, with just two wins. Swedish midfield maestro Emil Forsberg is still not fully fit, and he is an integral part of the Leipzig gameplan. Left-back Marcel Halstenberg is out for the rest of the season, and new loan signing Ademola Lookman is ineligible.

Napoli are without suspended forward Dries Mertens and the injured defender Vlad Chiriches, but they still have plenty of attacking quality in Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon. I suspect a Leipzig side that lacks experience at this level will fall short here.

Recommended Bet
Back Napoli to win at [2.2]

Spartak Moscow v Athletic Club
Thursday February 15, 18:00 GMT
Live on BT Sport Extra

Sometimes in betting you have to stick to a position even if you take a couple of hits initially. I have said throughout this Europa League campaign that I just don't fancy Athletic Club under Cuco Ziganda, and although they have made it this far, I'm still far from convinced by the Basque side.

They play pretty stodgy, safety-first football, and they have really missed the injured Iker Muniain. In defence, centre-back Aymeric Laporte has joined Manchester City, and his replacement Inigo Martinez is cup-tied. Athletic haven't won a game since the first week of December, and on the road they've won just three times since the start of September.

Spartak were thrashed in their must-win Champions League decider at Liverpool on Matchday Six, but the fact they pushed things that far in a group that also included Sevilla does them credit. Star player Quincy Promes has stayed put, which is a huge boost.

Spartak will be a bit rusty after their winter break, but just before that they secured highly impressive home wins against Zenit and CSKA. I'm backing them to win again.

Recommended Bet
Back Spartak Moscow to win at [2.5]

Lyon v Villarreal
Thursday February 15, 20:05
Live on BT Sport 3

Lyon got all the way to the semi-finals last season, and with this term's final set to be staged in their new stadium, they have plenty of motivation. However, OL come into this match in poor form, having lost three of their last four matches. They have leaked 12 goals in their last six outings in all competitions.

Villarreal aren't in great shape either. They have a number of players missing through injury, and they have lost their last two La Liga matches to Real Betis and Alaves. They have conceded seven goals in their last four games.

I fancy goals here. Five of Villarreal's last six games have seen an overs bet land, and the same goes for Lyon. Eight of Lyon's last nine UEL home matches have featured at least three goals.

Recommended Bet
Back Over 2.5 Goals at [1.91]

Copenhagen v Atletico Madrid
Thursday February 15, 20:05
Live on BT Sport ESPN

Atletico Madrid's failures in the Champions League and Copa del Rey (although they lost to a good Sevilla side in the semi-finals) mean that unless they can somehow catch Barcelona at the top of La Liga, this is their last chance to win a trophy this term. Diego Simeone's record with Atletico in Europe is generally excellent, and he takes these games seriously. He has already led Atleti to Europa League glory, winning the tournament in 2012. Even at what may seem like skinny odds of [4.0], I would advise backing Atleti to win the Europa League.

Copenhagen aren't the force they were, and they have lost too many key players to other clubs. They are fourth in the Danish Superliga, and they were just knocked out of Danish Cup on home soil by Brondby.

I expect a strong Atleti side, but even if Simeone rotates a few players, there should be enough quality available to beat a limited Copenhagen side that isn't playing well.

Recommended Bet
Back Atletico Madrid -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at [2.1]

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