Sevilla v Zenit
Thursday April 16, 20:05
This brings together two clubs that have won this competition four times between them in the past nine seasons, and two managers who have enjoyed the glory of lifting the trophy. Unai Emery led Sevilla to Europa League success last term, while Zenit boss Andre Villas Boas won it with Porto in 2011.
Sevilla are having another impressive season. They are battling Valencia for a Champions League spot in La Liga, and they have disposed of two talented sides in the knockout rounds of the Europa League. Borussia Monchengladbach and Villarreal were both beaten home and away, which takes some doing.
Despite the loss of playmaker Ivan Rakitic to Barcelona and powerhouse midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia to Monaco, Sevilla have adapted and maintained their high standards. Against Barcelona at the weekend, Sevilla went 2-0 down at home to fabulous strikes from Leo Messi and Neymar, but they flooded forward to salvage a 2-2 draw. Los Rojiblancos play with no fear, and that courage has served them well.
Zenit are eight points clear at the top of the Russian Premier League, and they have disposed of PSV and Torino in the knockout phase. Villas Boas has built the team’s success on solid defence and measured ball retention, and since dropping into this competition from the Champions League, the Russians have conceded just one goal in four games.
Villas Boas has a raft of suspension and injury problems to deal with. Attacking talents Danny and Hulk are both banned, as are defenders Domenico Criscito and Igor Smolnikov. Midfielder Viktor Fayzulin is out with a knee injury. Sevilla have no such issues, with goalkeeper Beto their only doubt.
With Zenit weakened so much, I fancy Sevilla to pick up their eighth consecutive home win in the competition. They are trading at [1.66], but we can boost that price a bit by using the Asian Handicap.
I also like Under 2.5 Goals at [1.95]. Zenit are defensively dogged, and five of their six Champions League group games this season featured fewer than three goals. It’s also worth noting that Sevilla have kept clean sheets in 11 of their last 13 games at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Back Under 2.5 Goals at [1.95]
Back Sevilla -0.5 & -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at [1.82]
2014/15 Europa League P/L (1pt per bet)
Points Staked: 77
Points Returned: 81.28
P/L: +4.28 points