Final 90 minutes for the teams that have advanced so far into the qualifying part of the UEFA Europa League competition will take place on Thursday. It will be the game that decides if they’re going home, or they’re going to appear in the group stage of the competition securing at least six more games on the European scene before Christmas.
Also, there is a question of a financial “fortune” that teams who advance will get that consists of fees from UEFA and TV rights. Fans, players and the boards of these squads are definitely looking forward to this epic showdown and we’re sure that there is going to be a heated atmosphere throughout the stadiums that will feature the rematches.
AEK Athens (Gre) vs. Club Brugge (Bel)
Three-Way: 1: AEK Athens +145; X: +235 Draw; Club Brugge +268
Spread -0.5: AEK Athens +129; Club Brugge -135
Total +2: Over -130; Under +121
After elimination in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League by CSKA Moscow (o:3 in aggregate), AEK Athens team earned the right to appear in the play-off round of the UEFA Europa League. Their opponent in this stage of the competition is the Belgian representative, Club Brugge and the first duel at Jan Breydel Stadium finished peacefully with no goals scored.
Also, the Greek national championship started last weekend and AEK managed to record a victory over Panaitolikos (2:0) with one goal each by Hugo Almeida who was sent off later in the game and Jakob Johansson. Vasilios Lampropoulos (cruciate ligament), Vasilios Barkas (hand injury), Georgios Giakoumakis (contusion) and Adam Tzanetopoulos (contusion) are unavailable for the rematch.
Another team that got ousted in the third qualification round of the UEFA Champions League is Club Brugge (3:5 in aggregate against Istanbul Basaksehir). On the other side, Belgium national championship started a couple of weeks ago as they already have four rounds behind them. Club Brugge tops the table with 100% efficiency (four wins) and on Sunday they recorded a road win over Kortrijk (1:2).
The Belgians will also have almost entire roster available as only two players are unavailable for Thursday. Centre-Back Benoit Poulain (abductor’s muscle) and left wing Elton Acolatse (groin) will be out.
AEK Athens (Gre) vs. Club Brugge (Bel) – Match Prediction
Having in mind that the first duel went goalless this will be a very open game with both sides having a chance of reaching the group stage of the Europa League. Also, I think that both teams will score at least one goal because it’s hard to think that one of them can go down with no shot fired. Overall, I’ll give the upper hand to the host.
MY PICK: Both teams score (+104)
Additional pick: AEK Athens to win (+145)
Midtjylland (Den) vs. Apollon (Cyp)
Three-Way: 1: Midtjylland -108; X: +300 Draw; Apollon +344
Spread -0.5: Midtjylland -116; Apollon +108
Total +2.5: Over -149; Under +138
One of the squads that are in the Europa League competition since first qualifying round are the Danes. First, they humiliated Irish representatives Derry City (10:2 in aggregate) and the next victim was Ferencvaros. They sent the Hungarians home with seven goals in their net (7:3 in aggregate). In the third round, they went by Polish representatives Arka Gdynia thanks to away goal rule (4:4 in aggregate, 3:2 loss on the road, 2:1 win at home).
In Danish Premier league team ranks second with 12 points in six games (4-0-2 record). During the weekend they defeated Odense BK on the road (2:0). Rasmus Nicolaisen (knee) and Paul Onuachu (appendicitis) are unavailable for the rematch while Markus Halsti will be out because of the red card suspension.
Not many people thought that the Cyprians will last this long in the Europa League competition but they are still here. They started in the second qualifying round as National Cup winner and went by Moldovan team Zaria Balti (5:1 in aggregate). Then they managed to pull out one of the upsets of the round by eliminating Scottish team Aberdeen (3:2 in aggregate).
Cyprian premier league started last weekend but the team hasn’t played in the first round because of the European competition appearance (week 1 matchup will be played later). Manager Sofronis Avgousti has his entire roster available.
Midtjylland (Den) vs. Apollon (Cyp) – Match Prediction
The first leg featured five goals on Cyprus (3:2 host win) and it looks like both teams know have to find the way to score. Also, their defenses don’t look very steady and that’s where I would put my money.
MY PICK: Total: Over 2.5 goals (-149)
Skenderbeu (Alb) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Cro)
Three-Way: 1: Skenderbeu +420; X: +300; Dinamo Zagreb -125
Spread +0.5: Skenderbeu +125; Dinamo Zagreb -137
Total +2.5: Over +100; Under -106
Another team that lasts from the first Europa League qualifying round are the Albanians. First, they eliminated Andorra’s team Sant Julia (6:0 in aggregate) and in the second round, they defeated the Kazakhstani representative Kairat (3:1 in aggregate). In the next stage, they recorded a big accomplishment as they outplayed Czech team Mlada Boleslav on penalties 4:2 (3:3 was the result after regular 180 minutes, 2:1 win at home, 2:1 loss on the road).
Manager Ilir Daja will have his entire roster available as only Centre-back Tefik Osmani will be out because of the suspension through sports court.
After failing to win the Croatian national championship and appearing in the UEFA Champions League competition for the first time in eight years, Dinamo Zagreb entered the UEFA Europa League in the third qualifying round Norwegian representatives Odd (2:1 in aggregate) with scores from Hodzic and Fernandes.
In the national championship, they are currently ranked 1st with 16 points in six games (5-1-0 record) and it looks like they are heading forward regaining the title. During the weekend they defeated Slaven Belupo (2:0) at home. Ante Coric (wound) is probable for Thursday while Arijan Ademi will not be available because of a doping ban.
Skenderbeu (Alb) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Cro) – Match Prediction
The first matchup in Zagreb at Maksimir Stadium ended with 1:1 draw (scores from Henriquez and Latifi). Dinamo is probably the team with more quality but it looks like the Skenderbeu is on the rise. Still, I’m not convinced that they can emerge victoriously. My first pick would be under 2.5 goals in total. An additional pick is Dinamo Zagreb to win.
MY PICK: Under +2.5 goals (-106)
Additional pick: Dinamo Zagreb to win (-125)
Videoton (Hun) vs. Partizan (Srb)
Three-Way: 1: Videoton +165; X: +225 Draw; Partizan +213
Spread 0: Videoton -122; Partizan +119
Total +2: Over -118; Under +108
The Hungarians also started the competition from the very first qualifying round of the Europa League, defeating Balzan 5:3 in aggregate and Nomme Klaju (4:1 in aggregate) in the second qualifying round. Their biggest accomplishment in this season so far was eliminating French side Bordeaux on an away goal rule (2:2 in aggregate, 1:0 win at home, 2:1 loss on the road).
In the national league, they rank second with 11 points in five matchups (3.2.0 record) and they defeated Debreceni team at home 1:0. Anel Hadzic (wound) and Marko Scepovic (wound) are listed as probable for Thursday.
The Partizan team won the national Championship of Serbia last year thus qualifying for the UEFA Champions League competition but in the third qualifying round they got eliminated by Greek Champion Olympiacos (5:3 in aggregate) Very solid performance in Athens (2:2 draw) was not enough as they previously lost the duel in Belgrade 3:1.
Serbian national championship started about a month ago and Black and Whites rank fourth on the league table with 12 points in five games (4-0-1 record). The list of unavailable players is also not long as only Nebojsa Kosovic (knee) is out and Vladimir Stojkovic has yellow card suspension.
Videoton (Hun) vs. Partizan (Srb) – Match Prediction
The first duel in Belgrade went goalless and both teams have about 50-50 chance of advancing to the next stage. Still, I will give a slight advantage to the home team. Also, there is a big possibility of under 2.5 goals in total as both teams might enter the showdown too careful, especially the guests.
MY PICK: Videoton win (+165)
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