Europa League Tips: Another clean sheet vital for goal-shy West Ham

Hajduk Split [1.34] v Koper [10.0]; The Draw [6.4]Thursday, 18:00
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These teams produced one of the most entertaining first-leg collisions, and Betfair customers will be able to watch the rematch. The odds show that Hajduk Split are expected to take their place in the third qualifying round without much hassle, but there are several reasons to doubt this assessment.

For starters, not only did the Croatians lose the initial showdown, they were beaten fairly commandingly, trailing from the seventh minute to the last, being 2-0 down within 17 minutes and requiring a 90th-minute goal to reduce the deficit to 3-2 and keep themselves in the tie.

In addition, for all the name recognition that they evoke, their recent Europa League record is nothing special. They were defeated at home by Dundalk and fell 4-2 to Shakhter Karagandy over the course of last season’s qualifiers. Georgian side Dila beat them to nil in both legs two years ago.

Recommended Bet: Back Koper to qualify @ [3.0]

Wolfsberger AC [2.1] v Shakhter Soligorsk [3.9]; The Draw [3.4]Thursday, 19:30
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You might not be hugely familiar with either of these clubs, yet this suddenly became one of the most important ties of the round last Friday when the third qualifying round draw revealed that the winners will meet [10.0] tournament favourites Borussia Dortmund.

Despite this being the first European campaign of their 84-year existence, Wolfsberger AC are in pole position to seize the opportunity following a 1-0 win in Belarus. The Austrians had six attempts on goal to their hosts’ 19 in that clash though, so the outcome remains cloaked in uncertainty.

Shakhter Soligorsk have won three of their four trips abroad since last year, with the exception a 1-0 reverse away to the mighty PSV. They had struck by the eighth minute in both parts of their double header in the previous round, so don’t be surprised if they break the deadlock again to level the aggregate score.

Recommended Bet: Back Shakhter Soligorsk to score the next goal @ [2.6]

Birkirkara [10.0] v West Ham [1.41]; The Draw [5.0]Thursday, 19:45
Live on Premier Sports

This column rode unders bets to stress-free profits in West Ham’s past two Europa League outings. However, now that the Irons are three games against Andorran and Maltese opposition into their continental adventure and have scored just five goals, the market has sharpened up to the fact that they don’t look like thrashing anybody, especially with leading goal threat Diafra Sakho suspended.

It means needing to find a fresh punting plan for this fixture – unless you are happy to try under 2.5 goals at [2.1] – but thankfully there is another attractive option on similar lines: the clean sheet.

Though they have only netted five times, West Ham haven’t conceded in the competition. Birkirkara were better than most anticipated in the first leg and have a big name up front in Fabrizio Miccoli, yet they created little, which resulted in them mustering one (off-target) shot at the Boleyn Ground.

Recommended Bet: Back West Ham to keep a clean sheet @ [2.0]