It’s a relatively known fact that as higher in the qualifications the team gets, the higher are their fans’ expectations. If you can get past the stage one of the Europa League, why can’t you go past the stage two because you’ve proven to yourself that you are able to play at this level of competition, everything else are just finesses, is the average fans’ attitude towards their beloved team.
In reality, the things are much different because the quality of the opponents rises exponentially in the further stages. Nevertheless, we have another four matches preview prepared in order to predict which team’s fans dream will continue to live after this second Europa League qualifying round.
Zeljeznicar (BiH) vs. AIK (Swe)
Three-Way: 1: Zeljeznicar; Home; X: +350 Draw; AIK
Spread –1.25: Zeljeznicar ; AIK
Total +2.5: Over -153; Under +110
The Bosnian side, Zeljeznicar FK, will be flying high on Thursday night when they step onto the pitch of the Grbavica Stadium as they play host to the Swedish side AIK. Zeljeznicar has managed to reach the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League after knocking out the Montenegrin side Zeta with 3:2 on aggregate.
In the first match played in Sarajevo, Zeljeznicar defeated Zeta with 1:0. The return fixture provide much more excitement and drama, finishing 2:2, which was enough for the Bosnian side to advance into the next stage of the competition.
During the offseason team was very active in the transfer market as they signed 10 new players to strengthen their squad while eight players left, including Ivan Lendric, who signed a contract in the French Ligue 2 for club Lens, on a 300.ooo Euros transfer fee.
The Swedish side, AIK Solna, will fly out to Sarajevo to meet the Bosnian side on Thursday night. AIK advanced into the second round of the Europa League competition after defeating a less formidable opponent KI Klaksvik in the first round.
It was a no brainer which team would come out on top and stay alive in the competition, after the Swedish side won on aggregate with 5:0. Now they will visit a much tougher opponent who is very strong at home.
The team from Sweden was not too active on the transfer market during the off season as they have signed 7 new players, mostly on free transfer fee, while on the other side, only two players left the team after their loan ended.
Zeljeznicar (BiH) vs. AIK (Swe) – Match Prediction:
The books favor the Swedish team in this matchup but I think that the hosts will play a good game in front of the sold out stadium and keep their hope of reaching the next round alive. Therefore, I think that this will be a low scoring game, which is why I am taking the under.
MY PICK: Under 2.5 goals (+110)
Almaty (Kaz) vs. Skenderbeu (Alb)
Three-Way: 1: K. Almaty -484; X: +435 Draw; 2: Skenderbeu +1402
Spread -1.5: K. Almaty -133; Skenderbeu +105
Total +2.5: Over -105; Under -128
Team that finished the last season as the runners-up in the Kazakhstan Premier League Kairat Almaty dominated over their opponent Lithuanian side Atlantas in the first qualifying round of the Europa League as went pass them with a 8:1 aggregate win (6:0 at home victory and 2:1 on the road win). Heroes from this clash were Gerard Gohou and Ivo Iličević with three goals each.
Three players came back from loan spells and two new were signed including defender Sheldon Bateau who came from Russian team KS Samara as a part of another loan deal. Central midfielder Gerson Acevedo left the team as a free agent. Centre-back Zarko Markovic (Knee) will be out for the Thursday’s matchup due to an injury.
The seven times Albanian champions Skenderbeu Korce team had a relatively easy assignment in the Europa League first qualifying round facing the Andorran representative in the competition, Sant Julia. First leg at home didn’t go very promising as they managed to record a minimal 1:0 win but the second leg domination on the road which seen five goals in the opponent’s net showed who’s the stronger squad at the moment.
During the offseason five new players strengthened the team while five guys also returned to the team after their loan spells. Four guys left the squad including the twenty eight years old Japanese striker Masato Fukui who left the team as a free agent. Centre-back Tefik Osmani is unavailable due to suspension.
Almaty (Kaz) vs. Skenderbeu (Alb) – Match Prediction:
This will be a real test for the Albanian squad as it will prove if they are ready to handle higher level teams. Nevertheless, I think that this will be a high scoring game, so I am picking the over.
MY PICK: Over 2.5 goals (-105)
Kalju (Est) vs. Videoton (Hun)
Three-Way: 1: Kalju +321; X: +242 Draw; 2: Videoton -126
Spread +0.5: Kalju -103; Videoton -121
Total +2.5: Over +103; Under -141
The Estonian squad Nomme Kalju managed to get passed the Faroe Islands representative B36 Torshavn 4:2 on aggregate (2:1 wins at home and on the road) to advance to the second qualifying round where they’re about to meet much stronger opponent that comes from a country with far greater soccer tradition, Hungary. A goal each by Deniss Tjapkin, Artjom Dmitrijev, Liliu and Artur Valikaev was enough to secure these two victories.
During the offseason team was not very active in the transfer market as they secured only one new signing, striker Liliu who came from Gzira Utd on a free transfer. One player was sent to the league rival JK Viljandi as part of a loan deal. Head coach Sergey Frantsev will have his entire roster available for Thursday.
The team that finished the last season ranked second in the Hungarian Premier League Videoton defeated the Maltese squad Balzan to advance into the second qualifying roun 5:3 on aggregate. First matchup was all about the home team as they secured the 2:0 victory with one goal each by Marko Šćepović and Danko Lazovic while second leg on the road finished with three goals scored by each team.
One new guy was signed (left-back Krisztian Tamas from Gyirmot FC) and three players returned to the tam after their loan spells. Midfielders Zsolt Poloskei and Adam Simon left the team on a free transfer. Boss Marko Nikolic has entire squad available for the upcoming matchup.
Kalju (Est) vs. Videoton (Hun) – Match Prediction:
The Hungarian side is a clear favorite in this matchup and a road win makes the most sense. Hungarian and Estonian national championships are on a different level of quality.
MY PICK: Videoton (Hun) -126
Maccabi Tel Aviv (Isr) vs. KR Reykjavik (Ice)
Three-Way: 1: Maccabi Tel Aviv -585; X: +523 Draw; 2: KR Reykjavik +1304
Spread -2: Maccabi Tel Aviv -108; KR Rejkjavik -116
Total +3: Over -109; Under -117
MACCABI TEL AVIV
The Maccabi Tel Aviv team went through the first qualifying round with not much sweat as they outplayed and outscored the Albanian side Tirana, 5:0 on aggregate. 2:0 win at home and 3:0 win on the road were enough to set the team’s mind on the second stage where they’ll meet another relatively weaker opponent, KR Reykjavik from Iceland.
Team managed business very profitably during the offseason as they sold one of their best players, winger Tal Ben Haim to Sparta Praha for a fee of 2.9 Million Euros. Their biggest acquisition of the summer was twenty three years old right winger Omer Atzili who came from Spanish team Granada for a fee of 1 Million Euros. Centre-back Tal Ben Haim will be unavailable on Thursday because of the red card suspension.
The Icelandic representative in the UEFA Europa League this year surprisingly made through the first qualifying round by defeating the Finnish team SJK, 2:0 on aggregate. First leg at home finished with a goalless draw while the Vikings managed to sneak out a 2:0 win on the road with goals by Palmi Rafn Palmason and Tobias Thomsen. Now, they face much stronger threat in the second round but as the Icelandic national team has proved, you have to be ready for anything when you face the northerners.
Their biggest acquisition during the offseason was striker Andre Bjerregaard who came from AC Horsens on a free transfer while no players left the team. Manager Willum Thor Thorsson has his entire roster available.
Maccabi Tel Aviv (Isr) vs. KR Reykjavik (Ice) – Match Prediction:
Anything but a win by the Israeli team would be a big upset but I wouldn’t be surprised if the visitors scored at least one goal. The safe bet here should be over in total goals.
MY PICK: Over 3 (-109)
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