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Europa League: Ninja’s Bets for the Quarterfinals

Daniel Parejo Valencia Europa League Quarterfinals

With the Europa League quarterfinals set to go next week, it’s time to take a look at some betting opportunities for the first legs, or “to qualify” markets, or whatever jumps out as we have just eight teams left standing.

The Europa League largely gets an unfair shake compared to the more glamorous Champions League, but look at some of the teams that are left: Chelsea, Arsenal, Napoli, Valencia, Eintracht Frankfurt, Benfica. All of these clubs possess Champions League-level quality and have a pretty decent chance at winning the whole thing.

In terms of futures markets, online book Bovada lists Chelsea as the favorite at +175 with Napoli +400, Arsenal +500, Valencia +800, Frankfurt +1000, Benfica +1000, Villarreal +1600 and Slavia Prague +3300. There is plenty of great value in futures markets, but let’s take a look at the upcoming round and see where some of the best betting value lies.

Arsenal vs Napoli

Easily the highest-profile matchup in the quarterfinals, this tie is fit for the final but sadly, one of these clubs will have its tournament cut short in this round.

The first leg is in London with the Gunners at +120 and the visitors +220 in moneyline markets and you must keep in mind just how different Arsenal is at home compared to on the road. The Gunners have lost just three games across all competitions: one in the Premier League, one in the FA Cup and one in the league cup. Very impressive run of form at the Emirates.

It’s also important to keep an eye on Napoli’s injury concerns ahead of this one. Lorenzo Insigne, Raul Albiol, Amadou Diawara and Vlad Chiriches could all miss out while Dries Mertens had to leave last weekend’s Serie A game with an apparent injury. We are over one week away from this one, but Napoli is going to need some of those players to heal if they want a chance.

Ninja’s Bet: OVER 1.0 1st Half (-130) (First Leg April 11)

Benfica vs Eintracht Frankfurt

Some of the most sought-after young talent in world football will be on display in this one as Luka Jovic and Eintracht Frankfurt meet João Félix and Benfica.

Frankfurt has the edge in “to qualify” markets as it is -155 with Benfica at +110. The first leg in this tie goes in Portugal with the hosts +125, Frankfurt +210 and the draw +235.

Frankfurt has been one of the hottest teams across Europe as it hasn’t lost a game in any competition since December 22 when Bayern Munich won 3-0. That’s a run of 14 matches unbeaten (eight wins, six draws) and a run of 10 unbeaten in the Bundesliga.

This impressive run of form has Frankfurt in fourth in the Bundesliga and brimming with confidence ahead of an away game at Schalke in the league this weekend before heading to Portugal.

Benfica, ever a conveyor belt of young, up-and-coming talent, leads the Portuguese league on a +50 goal differential as it is dead even on 66 points with Porto. Benfica emerged victorious in the Round of 16 matchup against Dinamo Zagreb after losing the first game in Croatia 1-0.

Much like Arsenal, Benfica just doesn’t lose at home very often. The thing is, Frankfurt has been dynamite in road games. They have just one loss in their last 15 away from home in all competitions. In five road games this Europa League campaign, they have yet to lose and have beaten fairly big clubs like Marseille (2-1), Lazio (2-1) and Inter (1-0).

Ninja’s Bet: OVER 2.5 (-105) (First Leg April 11)

Slavia Prague vs Chelsea

Chelsea, the tournament favorite, now faces the tournament darlings in Slavia Prague with the first game in the Czech Republic.

Prague’s Round of 16 matchup with Sevilla proved to be the most exciting and the Czech side advanced after drawing 2-2 in Spain with a dramatic 4-3 win thanks to a 119th-minute goal to punch their ticket to the quarterfinal.

Chelsea enters this one in the thick of a race for Champions League spots in the Premier League as it sits on 60 points, one behind fourth-placed Tottenham and fifth-placed Manchester United. The Europa League title could very well be its only way into the Champions League, so I fully expect Maurizio Sarri and his side to take this tournament, and this matchup with Slavia Prague, very seriously.

Now obviously, the Blues are huge favorites to qualify from this matchup so the -1400 price should not be surprising. While they haven’t had the most difficult path to the quarters, Chelsea has played some of their best football in this competition.

For example, they’ve outscored their last four opponents 13-1 in a four-match winning streak in the Europa League. Most recently, they throttled Dynamo Kyiv 5-0 in Ukraine to advance comfortably from the Round of 16.

Ninja’s Bet: Chelsea OVER 1.5 goals (-125) (First Leg April 11)

Villarreal vs Valencia

The fourth and final Europa League quarterfinal matchup pits a pair of familiar foes as the all-La Liga battle between Villarreal and Valencia begins at La Cerámica with the hosts +160 and Valencia +175 in the closest first-leg matchup.

Valencia has the edge to qualify here at -250 and when looking at the La Liga table, you can see that it’s deserved. Valencia sits sixth in the league with 43 points while Villarreal is struggling to stay alive with 29 points. Those 29 points are just one ahead of the drop zone as Celta Vigo, another long-standing La Liga member, has the 18th spot in the table with 28 points.

Villarreal has struggled largely due to a couple of injuries in the middle of the park as Bruno Soriano hasn’t played a game at all and Manu Trigueros has been hurt and on the shelf recently. For a side mired around the relegation zone, a strong run in the Europa League doesn’t add up. There is no way a club of Villarreal’s stature should be fending off relegation, yet here we are.

On the plus side, Villarreal has a couple of wins in their last three league games and only has a -5 goal differential. Plus, they have only lost twice against Valencia in the last nine in La Liga, although the last time the pair met was a 3-0 Valencia win this season.

With all that said, Valencia is the superior side and while the first leg at Villarreal should be a tough one, I’ll be looking at Valencia putting together a strong performance in hopes of a result before heading home.

Ninja’s Bet: Valencia 0.0 (EVEN) (First Leg April 11)

Archived Articles

The Europa League draw was held last Friday and some very intriguing matchups and betting opportunities arose from the festivities in Nyon, Switzerland.

Once upon a time, the Europa League was the butt of many jokes, but over the years it has sort of established itself as a perfectly reasonable sidekick to the Champions League. Just looking at some of the clubs remaining in the tournament proves that there is a lot of quality remaining in the final 16. Just look at some of those left: Napoli, Sevilla, Arsenal, Inter, Valencia, Benfica, *cough* Chelsea *cough* – big clubs that all have a shot at lifting silverware in Baku.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed a lot of the football in this tournament. Both legs in the Real Betis-Rennes matchup were electrifying. BATE scored a fun upset over Arsenal on home turf before the Gunners finished things off in the second leg. Sevilla, which has won this tournament five times, including in three of the last five seasons, dispatched Lazio to move ever closer to another chance at silverware.

One thing to note is that Spanish clubs have been wildly successful in this tournament on the whole. A team from Spain has won nine of the last 15 Europa Leagues (formerly known as UEFA Cup): Sevilla has five, Atletico Madrid has three and Valencia has one. There are three clubs left from Spain so if you believe that Spain’s dominance will continue, you have good value with Sevilla at +550 and Valencia at +1000. Villarreal (+2800) is still alive, but I don’t have too much faith in the Yellow Submarine right now.

The Round of 16 gets underway on March 7, so here are three decent value bets that I like for the upcoming stage that could be worth a punt.

Frankfurt To Qualify Against Inter (+175)

Of the eight matchups drawn on Friday, this is the one that excites me most, as both a footy bettor and fan. Eintracht Frankfurt is a fantastic side that has little trouble finding the back of the net and poses a real threat to Inter’s Europa League campaign.

There’s been a lot of off-the-field drama at Inter what with the club stripping Mauro Icardi of the captain’s armband and handing it over to Samir Handanovic, manager Luciano Spalletti apparently being on the hot seat, the Icardi and Wanda Nara stuff and on and on.

On the field, they squandered a 3-1 lead over Fiorentina to share the points in their most recent Serie A game and even lost to a very bad Bologna team earlier this month. Hence why I like taking Frankfurt to qualify over these two legs.

Frankfurt sits sixth in the Bundesliga with 37 points and a very sharp +16 goal differential. They haven’t lost in eight games across all competitions (three wins, five draws) and smashed Shakhtar Donetsk in the second leg of the last round by a score of 4-1 and 6-3 on aggregate.

Both Luka Jovic and Sébastien Haller are among the goal-scoring leaders in the competition while Frankfurt has yet to even lose a game in this season’s Europa League. They’ve faced some tough opponents as well: Marseille, Lazio and Shakhtar have all fallen to a wildly entertaining Frankfurt so don’t be surprised if Inter is the next to fall.

Zenit To Qualify Against Villarreal (+125)

Same type of wager here with Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg offering a decent price to advance against Villarreal. But this is as much a fade of struggling Villarreal as anything.

Villarreal, struggling in Spain as it sits 18th and mired in a relegation battle with the likes of Rayo Vallecano, Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid, has fared much better in the Europa League than domestically. The Yellow Submarine hasn’t lost a Europa League game yet with three wins and five draws and is coming off a 2-1 aggregate scoreline over Portugal’s Sporting.

Villarreal has been snake-bitten by some shoddy play at the back at times and a certain lack of punch up top. This coupled with extensive travel from Spain to Russia will probably be the last stop for the Spanish club and I like the value on Zenit to get past this round.

Zenit tops the table in the Russian Premier League, which has been on its winter break and resumes at the beginning of March. Europa League has been a long and bumpy road thus far with mixed results. Zenit had to go through a couple of rounds of qualifying but got past Dinamo Minsk and Molde before surviving a tough group which involved Bordeaux, Slavia Prague and FC Copenhagen before getting past Turkey’s Fenerbache in the previous round.

It’s not that Villarreal lacks talent, because they’ve got some great pieces in the setup. They do have injuries to the likes of Manu Trigueros, Bruno Soriano and Daniele Bonera which are surely misses but a player like Pablo Fornals could slot into most teams with relative ease. This is a club that was competing for Champions League places the past few seasons so the drop-off in results is alarming but a testament to exactly how good La Liga is.

Benfica 1st Leg Moneyline (+155)

For the third and final play in this article, I like the price on a sizzling Benfica side to beat Dinamo Zagreb in their first leg on March 7.

Entering Monday’s Liga Nos meeting against Chaves, Benfica has been on an absolute tear with 17 wins, two losses and two draws across all competitions since December 1. Included in there is the 2-1 win in Turkey against Galatasaray and the 0-0 second leg to advance to the current stage.

Not to take anything away from Dinamo Zagreb and this potentially tough away fixture for the Portuguese side, but +155 is a pretty good price for a very, very good team. The gulf in class just seems to be too much as Benfica features a slew of blossoming, potentially world-class talent like center back Ruben Dias, full back Alex Grimaldo, midfielder Gedson Fernandes, winger Andrija Zivkovic and the highly sought-after teenager João Félix.

To Zagreb’s credit, they’ve been a very tough nut to crack at home this Europa League with a 4-1 win over Fenerbache, a 3-1 win over Spartak Trnava and a 3-0 win over Viktoria Plzen in the last round.

It’s going to be a tough leg for Benfica, but it’s good value at +155 for a team that is in red-hot form across their remaining competitions. Plus, they’re a joy to watch.

Take a look at the full list of odds. Who do you think is going to win the Europa League? Have your say in the comment section below.

2018-19 Europa League Odds
Inter Milan+1000
Eintracht Frankfurt+2000
Zenit St. Petersburg+2500
Dynamo Zagreb+5000
Dynamo Kyiv+8000
Slavia Prague+15000

Odds as of February 25 at Bovada