Oppose Wigan in Europa League

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: October 3 2013, 20:10 BST

Jermain Defoe is must-bet material when Spurs head to Russia in the Europa League on Thursday, while Wigan should be opposed, says our Andy Schooler.

Jermain Defoe: Six goals in three starts this season
Jermain Defoe: Six goals in three starts this season

During his hey day, snooker star Steve Davis earned the nickname 'The Nugget' such was his reliability for earning his followers money.

If this season's Europa League is anything to go by, Jermain Defoe and Wilfried Bony could well be claiming similar monikers in the near future.

Both strikers are struggling to get into their respective teams for Premier League matches but, handed their chance in European competition, they are doing their best to impress.

Spurs star Defoe certainly looks worth backing at odds-against to net on Thursday night away to Russian side Anji Makhachkala.

The England international has started three games this season and has netted twice on each occasion - against Dinamo Tbilisi and Tromso in this competition and Aston Villa in the League Cup.

He's always been a player who knows where the goal is - a record of 19 goals in 30 appearances in this competition is further evidence of that - and in this game he's up against a side in a major slump.

Anji have yet to win a game this season and are in the relegation zone in the Russian league. Their only Europa League game thus far saw them held to a goalless draw by Moldovan minnows FC Sheriff.

Anji have been a big name in more ways than one in recent seasons but their big-spending plans to move into the Champions League have foundered - the cash has basically run out and a summer fire sale has seen all their star names leave.

Samuel Eto'o, Willian, Christopher Samba, Lassana Diarra and Yuri Zhirkov are just some of those to have departed. To add to their problems, one player who does remain, last season's 12-goal man Lacina Traore, is out injured.

What remains does not look a team likely to trouble Tottenham's second string line-up, one which is seriously strong following he summer additions Andre Villas-Boas was able to make to his squad.

Defoe's form suggests he should be able to pounce. 5/1 about him netting at least twice again will tempt many and I wouldn't put people off, but I'll keep things simple by siding with the 30-year-old, who celebrates his birthday next week, in the anytime market at 11/10.

Bony's Swansea host St Gallen in their second group match and their striker is evens to net in the game.

The Ivorian has four goals in four Europa League matches thus far, plus one in the League Cup, as he makes a strong case for selection in Michael Laudrup's Premier League XI.

Laudrup has used his European experience to the full in Swansea's campaign thus far and the Welsh outfit have impressed by thrashing Malmo and Petrolul Ploiesti in this competition at the Liberty Stadium already this season, not to mentioned their 3-0 win away to 10-man Valencia.

A repeat will likely see Bony net in a home win - something that can be backed at 11/8 in the wincast market - but I'm slightly put off by the record of their Swiss opponents.

St Gallen seem likely to pose a tougher test than the aforementioned sides and could well be difficult to break down.

They arrive unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions and have kept a clean sheet in their last three.

To me Defoe looks the better bet this week but Bony is certainly worth keeping in mind for future Europa League games.

For those seeking a bigger price, the other game involving a British side looks worth an interest.

I'm staggered to see Wigan as short as 1/2 to beat Slovenian Double winners Maribor.

The quality of the Slovenian league is open to question, that's for sure, but it must be remembered that Wigan are a mid-table Championship team struggling to live up to expectations following relegation last season.

The Latics have failed to score in four of their last five matches and if you look at the season as a whole they are being kept out more often than not.

Admittedly their struggles have largely been away from home but it's hardly a run which inspires confidence and neither is the DW going to be an intimidating arena for Maribor to enter.

Wigan's players, and boss Owen Coyle, have virtually no experience at European level but the same cannot be said of their opponents, who have been regulars in this competition.

Admittedly Maribor are hardly in great shape themselves and despite being top of their domestic league they axed their manager Ante Cacic at the weekend.

A 5-2 defeat in their Europa League opener to Rubin Kazan cannot have helped but two stoppage-time goals produced a distorted scoreline and it did come against a team who played in the Champions League last season and also beat eventual winners Chelsea in this competition.

There's every chance a change in manager fires up the players for this one I don't think Maribor should be out at 11/2 to win this contest. That price looks worth a small nibble.

Alternatively you could get the draw on your side by backing them in the double chance market at 6/4 which also seems more than fair.

  • The Tottenham and Swansea games are live in the UK on ITV4, while the Wigan match is on BT Sport. Spurs kick off at 1700 BST with Swansea and Wigan both starting at 2005.

  • Posted at 1310 BST on 02/10/2013.