Thursday Europa League Picks

Monday, April 29th, 2019

By Jonathan Willis
Thursday Europa League Picks

There is a lot at stake in the first leg of the Europa League Semifinals. None of the four teams that have made it this far have assured themselves of a spot in the Champions League next season based off of their league performance. Chelsea and Arsenal are fourth and fifth in the Premier League, Eintracht Frankfurt is fourth in the Bundesliga, and Valencia is in sixth place in La Liga. Winning the Europa League will provide one of these teams an automatic bid to the Champions League, give them another international trophy to hold up, and it will let them take on the winner of the Champions League in the UEFA Super Cup.

Spanish teams have ruled this competition in recent years. Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have each won three Europa League titles in the last nine seasons, and Valencia will look to follow suit. Chelsea and Arsenal will be out to cap off a banner year for English clubs, while Eintracht is looking to win Germany its first Europa League title since 1997.

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Eintracht Frankfurt PK -105 vs. Chelsea FC, O/U 2.5

Eintracht Frankfurt are the biggest underdogs left in this competition. However, this team has continually overcome the odds to get here, as they weren’t expected to make it out of a group that included last year’s runner-up Marseille and Italian power Lazio.

The German club won every match in the group stage and finished with a +12 goal differential. They followed up that performance by hammering Shakhtar Donetsk, and they outgritted Inter Milan in a Round of 16 tie that saw just one goal through two legs. A few weeks ago, they shocked Benfica by overcoming a 4-2 first leg defeat to win on away goals.

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Chelsea had close to the easiest path possible to get to the semifinals. The draw has been a very beneficial one every step of the way, as they were drawn in a group with three minnows and are only now facing a team from one of the top five European leagues. Chelsea cruised past Malmo, Dynamo Kyiv, and Slavia Prague to get here.

The key for Eintracht will be the play of youngster Luka Jovic. Jovic has eight goals and an assist in 12 Europa League matches, and he has shined throughout the season for the club. His performance will be even more important with Ante Rebic sidelined after picking up a yellow card against Benfica two weeks ago.

The Blues won’t have Antonio Rudiger available, and Willian might be out as well due to injury. Chelsea have the edge on paper, but this Eintracht team looks a little like Ajax with their young talent, and I’ll go with them at home.

Arsenal FC -0.5 vs. Valencia CF, O/U 2.5

We have watched Arsenal look very vulnerable in this competition. The Gunners needed to overcome first leg deficits against both BATE Borisov and Rennes before finally looking like an elite club over two legs against Napoli. However, their recent Premier League performance has left a lot to be desired and they have dropped three straight league games coming into this tilt.

Valencia have looked better, shaking off their disappointing third place Champions League group stage finish to best Celtic, Krasnodar, and Villarreal in order to reach this point. They beat the Yellow Submarine 5-1 on aggregate in the last round, but they too have dropped their last couple league games.

Arsenal are without Aaron Ramsey and are unlikely to have Mesut Ozil and Nacho Monreal for this match, so I like Valencia’s chances of picking up at least a draw.

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