Arsenal are one of the favourites to win the Europa League, and Kevin Hatchard believes they'll make a winning start at Rapid Vienna.
"Only one of Arsenal's eight games in all competitions have featured more than three goals."
Rapid Vienna v Arsenal
Thursday 22 October, 17:55
Live on BT Sport 2
Rapid keen to echo past glories
Rpaid Vienna were once a staple of European competition. They reached the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup (look it up, kids) in 1985 and 1996, and they have been crowned as champions of Austria on no less than 32 occasions. However, they have only reached the group stage of the Champions League twice, and they rarely escape the group stage in this competition.
To make matters worse, Rapid's domestic dominance is very much a thing of the past. Red Bull Salzburg are now the undisputed masters of Austrian football, while LASK have also moved past the capital club. Rapid have however made a strong start to the Austrian Bundesliga season, collecting ten points from four games.
Despite an as-yet unnamed player testing positive for COVID-19, the game is expected to go ahead, with that player having been isolated from the rest of the group. Striker Taxiarchis Fountas is the man to watch, as he has already rattled in seven goals in all competitions.
Gunners must take UEL chase seriously
When qualifying for the Champions League is as important to a club as it to Arsenal, you have to keep every avenue open. The competition for the Premier League's top four remains as fierce as ever, and defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City have already acted as reminders to the Gunners about where they currently are in the order of things. Winning the Europa League offers a bonus route back to the promised land, and Arsenal are trading at 8.27/1 to win the tournament, with only their North London foes Tottenham above them in the market.
There's no doubt that manager Mikel Arteta has been able to move the needle in terms of the culture of the club. Arsenal seem tougher, more cohesive and more willing to focus on the darker side of the game. The FA Cup and Community Shield have been added to the trophy cabinet, and even though Arsenal suffered those Premier League losses at Anfield and the Etihad, they did at least stay in both of those games for long periods.
Arsenal's away form has been a source of concern for years, but there's improvement in the cup competitions in that regard. The Gunners have already won at Leicester City and Liverpool in the Carabao Cup, and in last season's FA Cup they been Sheffield United, Manchester City and Chelsea, all away from the comforts of the Emirates Stadium.
Mesut Özil and Sokratis have been left out of the Europa League squad entirely, but Thomas Partey could make his first start for the club, after coming on as a late substitute at Manchester City.
Arsenal to edge it
Arteta won't take risks, and he will ask his team to stay compact and look to nullify Rapid's talented attacking players. Rapid are no pushovers, but they consistently struggle to make an impact at this level, and although this is on paper the hardest game of the group for Arsenal, I still expect them to make a winning start.
You can back Arsenal to win and Under 3.5 Goals on the Sportsbook's Same Game Multi at 2.3411/8, and I believe that's a an attractive bet. Only one of Arsenal's eight competitive games this term have featured more than three goals, and that was only thanks to a late Diogo Jota strike in a 3-1 loss at Liverpool.
Nketiah to shine?
Eddie Nketiah could get the nod in attack here if Arteta chooses to rotate, and he has scored in five of his last ten games for club and country. The England U21 star is 2.35/4 to score at any time, while in the in-form Fountas is priced at 3.02/1 for Rapid.
Kevin Hatchard 2020-21 P/L
Points Staked: 50
Points Returned: 50.2
P/L: +0.2 points