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2 legs in the Europa League. There is a suggestion, I'd hope, that teams will field stronger sides. Team news is key. It is still a very tough set of matches. First legs compound the difficulty. I have tried to put forward angles but it is without great confidence.

16:00 - FC Astana v Sporting Lisbon - 2.14 Sporting

FC Astana

  • Form all competitions - no draw in 12 matches; 3 losses in 4 matches; last 2 matches were friendlies.
  • Form all competitions at home - 2 recent losses at home were friendlies; apart from that only 1 loss in 21 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - 3 wins in 4 v Maccabi Tel Aviv and Slavia Prague.
  • Form at home Europa League - unbeaten in 7 matches but lost latest to Villareal 2-3; scored and conceded in 4 of their last 5 matches.

Sporting Lisbon

  • Form all competitions - 2 losses in their last 3 matches came away; in the Champions League, only Barcelona and Juventus beat Sporting;
  • Form all competitions at home - 10 clean sheets in 11 matches; 10 wins and a draw in 11.
  • Form home and away Europa League - last time in Europa League 2015 and 2016.
  • Form away in Europa League - only 2 wins in 21 away matches came back in 2015 and 2016.

Conclusions

  • Sporting were excellent in the Champions League putting up a fight v big teams but last time they were in the Europa League away, they were really poor.
  • No draw in 12 for Astana in all competitions enough to lay any late draw?

18:00 - Dortmund v Atalanta - 1.83 Dortmund

Dortmund

  • Form all competitions - only loss in 10 matches v Bayern Munich; scored 2+ goals in each of their last 3 matches; demoted from the Champions League.
  • Form all competitions at home - only 1 win in 8 saw a really poor run, ended now with 3 wins and 2 draws in their last 5 matches; 2-3-0-2-2 goals scored in their last 5 at home.
  • Form home and away Europa League - wins in 2016 home and away v Porto and Tottenham, albeit a much changed Tottenham side. Loss v Liverpool was 4-3 latest in 2016.
  • Form at home Europa League - good home form, only 1 loss in 2015/2016 campaigns; questionable opponents generally bar Porto and Tottenham (weakened side).

Atalanta

  • Form all competitions - only 3 losses in 16 matches ; 0-1 losses recently v Napoli v Juventus.
  • Form all competitions away - unbeaten in 8 matches with 6 wins scoring 2+ goals; recently beat Milan, Napoli and Roma.
  • Form home and away Europa League - unbeaten in 2017; scored and conceded in 4/5 matches.
  • Form away Europa League - 1-1, 1-1, 1-5 away v Everton.

Conclusions

  • Questionable that we will see first teams here today. Europa League form for Dortmund saw them play a much changed Tottenham for instance and lose to a second string Liverpool.
  • Atalanta look like they are in this competition for the first time, scoring and conceding in 4/5 matches and remaining unbeaten. Solid away v Milan, Napoli and Roma domestically, if they field a strong side, they may have a chance. Both teams to score today? Tough to call given possible team changes particularly for Dortmund. I like Atalanta's form here.

18:00 - Ludogorets v AC Milan - 2.24 AC Milan

Ludogorets

  • Form all competitions - Hungarian side and on form, Surely Milan are favoured?
  • Form all competitions at home - only 3 wins in 7 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 3 wins in 13 matches; scored and conceded last 3 with 2 1-1 draws.
  • Form at home Europa League - scored and conceded in 4/5; beat Hoff at home, draw v Braga and loss v Basaksehir.

AC Milan

  • Form all competitions - unbeaten in 8 matches; scored and conceded in 4/5.
  • Form all competitions away - Draw, win, draw, win last 4.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 1 loss in 20 matches came last match v Rijeka in the group stage - probably not a must win.
  • Form away Europa League - win, win, win, draw, loss away.

Conclusions

  • Milan on paper surely are the better side here but in this Europa League we face the possibility of team changes for Milan. Their group stage was strong, and the loss v Rijeka was in a meaningless match. Milan domestically are back in form too.
  • Ludogorets are an unknown but only 3 wins in 13 matches see them possibily not up for the competition. Ludogorets have scored and conceded in 4/5 - lay them if they score first?

18:00 - Marseille v Braga - 1.47 Marseille

Marseille

  • Form all competitions - unbeaten in 10 matches; scored 2+ goals in 9 matches; scored and conceded in 3 of their last 4.
  • Form all competitions at home - only 2 loss in 27 matches; scored 2+ goals in 5 of their last 6 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 1 win in 5 matches; 1-0-2-0-1-0 scored in recent matches suggests possibly weakened team fielded?
  • Form at home Europa League - 6 wins, a loss and a draw last 8 matches. 3 clean sheets in 4 matches.

Braga

  • Form all competitions - only 1 draw in 16 was a 2-2; 5 wins in 7 matches; only losses v Porto and Benfica.
  • Form all competitions away - only 2 wins in 9 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 1 win in 4 matches but obviously through the group stages; scored and conceded in 13 of their last 14 matches.
  • Form away Europa League - scored and conceded in their last 7, losing only last match v Basakeshir.

Conclusions

  • If we were assured first teams playing, then I would be with Marseille. But their recent poor goalscoring in the Europa League - 1-0-2-0-1-0 suggests they fielded a weakened side in what must have been a weak group if they qualified with that goal scoring performance.
  • Braga away have been good, scoring and conceding. Only 1 draw in 16 - lay the late draw? Tough to trust that Marseille will field their first team who score shedloads domestically.

18:00 - Nice v Lokomotiv - 2.02 Nice

Nice

  • Form all competitions - only 2 wins in 9 were 1-0 wins; 3 consecutive defeats.
  • Form all competitions at home - no draw in 13 matches; 6 wins in their last 9 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - no draw; losses came v Lazio and Vitesse - wins not eyecatching v Zulte and Vitesse.
  • Form at home Europa League - no home draw sees 3 wins in 4 v Krasnador (Russian), Vitesse and Zulte.

Lokomotiv

  • Form all competitions - only 1 win in 7 sees 4 score draws ; scored and conceded in 5 of their last 6 matches.
  • Form all competitions away - 6 wins and a loss last 7 away. Good travellers.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 1 loss in 7; questionable form given opponents look lower level.
  • Form away Europa League - only 1 loss in 8 matches - again good travellers, but played the likes of Sheriff and Zlin - what are they like v Nice?

Conclusions

  • No draw is the eyecatcher for Nice in the Europa League. Can we lay any late draw? Nice at home in all competitions are good. They did beat Russians Krasnador and play top of the Russian league today. Lokomotiv I have written twice are 'good travellers'. But as is typical of the Europa League, the teams they have good results against are hard to gauge as against today's opponents. Nice's recent form is poor. Lokomotiv have the feel of a team up for the Europa League. Enough to favour them today?

18:00 - Ostersunds FK v Arsenal - 1.47 Arsenal

Ostersunds

  • Form all competitions - only 3 defeats in 21 for the Swedes, 1 in Europa League 1-0 and another a friendly as they have had a winter break.
  • Form all competitions at home - only 1 loss since 11th February 2017; scored 2+ goals in each of their last 5.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 2 losses this 2017 campaign but obviously got out of the group.
  • Form at home Europa League - 5 wins and a 2-2 v Atl Bilbao; not yet met a team of a Premiership calibre.

Arsenal

  • Form all competitions - apparently no rotation for Wenger today; Aubameyang misses out; only 3 wins in 10 matches came at home; scored and conceded in 10 of their last 12 matches.
  • Form all competitions away - 4 losses in 5 ; only 2 wins in 12 v Palace and Burnley.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only loss v Koln with a rotated team.
  • Form away Europa League - 2-4, 0-1 and 1-0 away.

Conclusions

  • Ostersunds have been eyecatchers throughout this Europa League and remain unbeaten at home. Team news vital for Arsenal today. Reports that Wenger will field a first team may swing this in Arsenal's favour over 2 legs.
  • Glaringly bad away form for Arsenal to continue into Sweden? I have no clear opinions here and would ask you to check team news at www.flashscore.com to gauge confidence in Arsenal.

18:00 - Real Sociedad v Red Bull Salzburg - 1.84 Real Sociedad

Real Sociedad

  • Form all competitions - only 2 wins in 13 but context, have played Barcelona, Real Madrid lately.
  • Form all competitions at home - no draw in 7 saw 5 defeats; scored and conceded in 7 of their last 9.
  • Form home and away Europa League - no draw 2014 and 2017 campaigns; 7 wins and 3 defeats a reasonable haul.
  • Form at home Europa League - 4 wins and a loss v Zenit.

Red Bull Salzburg

  • Form all competitions - note coming back off a Winter Break and may not be 'match fit'; dominant domestically - only 2 defeats since the start of the season July 2017.
  • Form all competitions away - no defeat in 13 matches - 0-0, 0-0 pre Xmas Break; 0-1 win post Winter Break.
  • Form home and away Europa League - unbeaten since November 2016; 6 clean sheets in 7.
  • Form away Europa League - unbeaten in 6 with alternate wins and draws.

Conclusions

  • Red Bull form in the Europa League has been eyecatching but again we have the task of weighing up their opponents against today's in terms of strength.
  • Real Sociedad tend to score and concede in recent matches and have avoided the draw of late - enough to lay any late score draw.
  • Good home form for Real but how to weigh up the teams they have beaten as against Red Bull? The eternal Europa League conundrum.

18:00 - Spartak Moscow v Athletic Bilbao - 2.46 Spartak Moscow

Spartak Moscow

  • Form all competitions - recent form in friendlies post Winter Break.
  • Form all competitions at home - 2 consecutive defeats albeit friendlies; prior to that only 1 defeat since 15th October 2016. Solid.
  • Form home and away Europa League - casualty of the Champions League so not sure how they will approach the Europa League Form from Jan 2016 is not relevant.
  • Form at home Europa League - as above.

Athletic Bilbao

  • Form all competitions - 5 draws and a loss in 6 matches; failed to score in 3 of their last 4.
  • Form all competitions away - only 3 wins in 15 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 2 losses in 15 matches; 3 consecutive wins v Ostersunds, Hertha, Zorya.
  • Form away Europa League - unbeaten in 5 albeit 3 draws; 3-0-2-2 scored recently.

Conclusions

  • Another problem with the Europa League is those teams who are there because they were knocked out of the Champions League. What is their attitude to this lesser competition? This is the case for Spartak where we have no recent form for them. Ath Bilbao have been scoring readily away and have only 2 losses in 15. We can assume that they have the right attitude for the competition. Given Spartak's tonking v Liverpool in the Champions League, this suggests if Bilbao are scoring 3-0-2-2 recently and away from home, Bilbao may have a goal or 2 in them this evening?
  • Spanish sides like Sevilla and Atl Madrid have been known to take this competition seriously. Will Bilbao follow suit? Their recent form overall is poor but Europa is good.

20:05 - AEK Athens v Dynamo Kiev - 2.36 AEK Athens

  • The odds, coupled with this being the first leg of the Europa League, suggests that this game is too tough to call.

AEK Athens

  • Form all competitions - renewed domestically. Top 2 now; unbeaten in 22 matches; 14 clean sheets is a good ratio; 8 wins in 10 matches.
  • Form all competitions at home - 7 wins and a 0-0 last 8 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - 5 consecutive draws - a sequence to end? 3 0-0's in 4 matches.
  • Form at home Europa League - a win and 3 draws; 2-2, 0-0, 2-2 at home.

Dynamo Kiev

  • Form all competitions - no recent form. Winter break and all recent matches friendlies; 7 wins in 8 prior to Winter Break.
  • Form all competitions away - failed to score last 4, again 3 were friendlies; 4 wins to nil in 5 matches prior to that.
  • Form home and away Europa League - 5 wins, a draw and a loss last 7; 4-4-5-4-1-5-5 goals in total recently; both teams scored in 6 of 7 matches.
  • Form away Europa League - 2 wins and a 3-2 last 3.

Conclusions

  • I do like to take on 0-0 sequences because teams effectively do not set out for 0-0's. Goals are their goals. AEK meet a team in Dynamo Kiev who, in the Europa League, have seen 29 goals in 7 matches with both teams tending to score. A lack of congruity as you can see. Ultra defensive, draw minded AEK Athens (with the 0-0 and draw sequences end? - lay them late if you want to take these sequences on) and gung-ho Kiev (we'll let you score but try and score one more than you!) If you are more taken by Kiev, then lay any team leading 2-0.

20:05 - Celtic v Zenit St Petersburg - 2.66 Celtic

  • Extremely offputting match odds market.

Celtic

  • Form all competitions - a side here because they did not progress in the Champions League; only 1 loss in 10; dominant as ever domestically.
  • Form all competitions at home - 7 wins and a 0-0 last 8 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - last in the Europa League 2014 and 2015 where they did not win in 11 matches - once out of the Champions League it seems Celtic do not prioritise the Europa League.
  • Form at home Europa League - no win in 5 albeit back in 2015.

Zenit

  • Form all competitions - 7 wins and 2 draws in their last 9 matches; dominating in Russia.
  • Form all competitions away - only 2 losses in 21 matches; only one win in 7 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - 5 wins and a draw in their last 6 matches; scored and conceded last 5 matches.
  • Form away Europa League - losses away to Anderlecht and Utrecht looks poor form, beat Yehuda and Vardar - hardly rock solid form.

Conclusions

  • Celtic may not be fully up for this competition, at least that's what 2014 and 2015 tells us. It seems to be Champions League or nothing for them. Zenit seem up for the Europa League but their away form is weak, beating the likes of Yehuda and Vardar.
  • Zenit tend to score and concede in the Europa League without losing. Will that continue today? If you think so, lay any Celtic lead.

20:05 - FC Copenhagen v Atletico Madrid - 1.61 Atletico Madrid

FC Copenhagen

  • Form all competitions - post winter break so no recent form.
  • Form all competitions at home - no recent home form - did win their post Winter break match 5-1.
  • Form home and away Europa League - 4 clean sheets in 6 matches.
  • Form at home Europa League - 4 clean sheets in 5 home matches; Madrid looks like a big step up in class though.

Atletico Madrid

  • Form all competitions - only 3 losses since September 2017 were v Espanyol and Sevilla twice in the Copa del rey.
  • Form all competitions away - only 2 losses since May 2017 were against the above named teams; 3 clean sheets in 4 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only occasion visitors to this competition as tend to be Champions League; 15 match winning streak 2011 to October 2012; last matches in 2013.
  • Form away Europa League - no recent form.

Conclusions

  • The niggles keep arriving in this competition. No form for Atl Madrid in this competition since 2013. They obviously took 2011 and 2012 very seriously. Will Madrid field a first team? Team news therefore key to this tie. A full strength side will be extremely tough to score against and will likely keep a clean sheet and score a 2nd half goal if not first half. Note I say that IF this is a full strength side. Copenhagen look good in this competition but there is no side approaching the calibre of Atl Madrid that Copenhagen faced with their clean sheets at home.

20:05 - FCSB v Lazio - 1.93 Lazio

FCSB

  • Form all competitions - aka Steaua Bucharest; only 1 draw in 15 matches came last match.
  • Form all competitions at home - most recent form friendlies.
  • Form home and away Europa League - inconsistent form, have won and lost v the same teams in 2017; 2 consecutive defeats.
  • Form at home Europa League - win, draw, loss last 3 home.

Lazio

  • Form all competitions - 3 defeats and a 0-0 last 4 matches, albeit in Italian Seria A.
  • Form all competitions away - only 2 wins in 9 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 2 losses in 17 matches; up for the cup? scored and conceded in 3 of their last 4.
  • Form away Europa League - scored and conceded in 8 of their last 9 matches; only 1 loss in 12 matches may have been because they had already qualified from the group.

Conclusions

  • FCSB are an unknown quantity whose recent form is in friendlies. Inconsistent in the europa league beating and losing to the same teams.
  • Lazio are struggling recently in Seria A but it must be said this league is far better than Romanian league. In the Europa League Lazio have only 2 losses in 17 matches.
  • Both teams may score based on Lazio away but with Lazio not losing.

20:05 - Lyon v Villarreal - 2 Lyon

Lyon

  • Form all competitions - 3 defeats in 4 matches.
  • Form all competitions at home - only 2 losses in 19 matches.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 1 loss in 7 came v Atalanta last match.
  • Form at home Europa League - 6 wins and a 1-1 in the last 7 includes defeats of Roma, AZ, Besiktas, Ajax, Everton - a good haul.

Villareal

  • Form all competitions - 2 consecutive defeats.
  • Form all competitions away - 4 losses and 3 wins in 7 away.3 of the wins were 0-1.
  • Form home and away Europa League - only 2 losses in the 2017 campaign v Roma and Maccabi Tel Aviv (after Villareal had already qualified).
  • Form away Europa League - 4 draws and 3 wins - 3 wins in 4 matches.

Conclusions

  • 2 big teams and 2 familiar teams meet today. both teams have reasonable Europa League form.
  • I cannot chose a team. The in-play stats are key for me here. Strong home form for Lyon and an impressive group of teams beaten. Is that enough to give them the nod?