West Ham v FC Lusitans (Thursday, 19:45, whufc.com)
Whereas most Premier League fans treat the Europa League with dread or indifference, West Ham are embracing their first European experience in nine years, selling out this early July clash with Andorra opposition and streaming the match for free online for those unable to get a ticket.
The Irons aren’t at full strength as new boss Slaven Bilic has been working with the end-of-season regulars and several summer signings, leaving academy manager Terry Westley to prepare for this fixture, but the likes of James Tomkins, Morgan Amalfitano and Diafra Sakho are confirmed starters.
A blend of debutants, academy products and first teamers under a dugout debutant isn’t ideal, yet FC Lusitans have played four European away games – against Rabotnicki, Varazdin, Valletta and EB/Streymur – and leaked five or more in each, so West Ham should aim for at least six goals.
Recommended Bet: Back West Ham to score six goals or more @ [2.0]
Shkendija v Aberdeen (Thursday, 20:05, Premier Sports)
Aberdeen’s reward for delivering the best ever Scottish Premiership points total for a non-Old Firm team is to start the season in Skopje, with Scotland’s poor UEFA coefficient necessitating them to clear four double headers to earn a shot at the group stage.
The Dons were impressive on their first continental adventure of the decade last term, breezing past Daugava Riga 8-0 on aggregate and surprising Eredivisie side Groningen before making a competitive exit against Real Sociedad.
Shkendija are unbeaten in two prior Europa League home encounters though and have recruited four Macedonian internationals in this window, so it is unlikely to be as easy for Aberdeen as their [1.45] win odds suggest.
Derek McInnes’ men conceded in all of their final five 2014/15 outings and two of their three trips abroad in that campaign, so there is a case for a punt on both teams to score.
Recommended Bet: Back both teams to score @ [2.2]
Cork City v KR Reykjavik (Thursday, 19:45)
Plenty has changed since Cork City were last in Europe in 2008. They have been wound up, reformed outside the top tier, regained a place in the Premier Division and are now establishing themselves as one of the league’s two leading clubs again.
However, their return to continental competition has the potential to be pretty low key. Six of their past seven clashes – or 13 of their latest 19 if you scan further back – have produced two goals or fewer.
Visitors KR Reykjavik arrive in the Republic of Ireland fresh from successive clean sheets, and shut out Northern Ireland’s Glentoran home and away in the Europa League two years ago.
Recommended Bet: Back under 2.5 goals @ [1.89]