Sevilla worthy favourites
Our Andy Schooler previews Thursday's Europa League semi-finals and feels Sevilla should be too good for Valencia.
- Related Content
Sevilla should justify favouritism in Thursday night's Europa League semi-final first leg at home to Valencia.
The season so far shows they are quite simply the better side.
For those who don't follow Spanish football particularly closely, a look at the table shows Sevilla in fifth. Valencia are down in eighth, 14 points behind their opponents.
The hosts' strikeforce of Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro has had plenty to do with their challenge for Champions League football next season, not to mention their current run in this competition. They, and captain Ivan Rakitic, have all hit double figures in terms of goals.
In the league Sevilla have averaged more then two goals a game at the Sanchez Pizjuan, winning 10 of 17 in the Primera Division.
Their last four games have seen them net 14 times; all have been won and they clearly come into this one brimming with confidence.
Gameiro has been responsible for six of those goals. He also takes penalties and is worth consideration in the goal markets - he's 9/5 to net at anytime and 11/2 to bag the first.
In contrast to Sevilla's impressive form, Valencia, with two wins in their last seven outings, can hardly be relishing their trip west.
They've managed a paltry 14 goals in 17 league away games this term, winning just three times on their travels.
In this competition they were thrashed 3-0 in Basel in the last round before staging a remarkable turnaround at the Mestalla in the second leg.
Frail on the road, Valencia will also be daunted by a poor record in this first over the past 10 years. Their last win at Sevilla came in 2004 with 13 subsequent trips producing 10 wins for the home side.
Another beckons here it would seem. The only question a punter needs to ask is whether there's value to be had in the 17/20 price.
Admittedly some will have their doubts. Defensive regular Coke is suspended while a clash with Athletic Bilbao - one they probably need to win if they are to secure a top-four finish - will follow on Sunday.
However, this is a European semi-final and it's hard to see changes being made with that game in mind, particularly when Sevilla are a club with a rich recent tradition in the Europa League - they have won it twice in the past decade.
I'll put aside those concerns to back the hosts to open a first-leg lead.
The other semi sees Benfica - one defeat in their last 32 games - host tournament favourites Juventus, who have won 15 of their last 17.
How you decipher those stats rests largely upon how you rate the Portuguese and Italian leagues.
It's probably fair to say Benfica's run should be taken with something of a pinch of salt, yet the fact that no team has managed to win at the Estadio da Luz this season warrants respect.
Juve are 15/8 to end that run, a price which will tempt many, especially with winger Eduardo Salvio and full-back Silvio having been ruled out of action since the previous round for Benfica.
I'll stick with the more confident selection of Sevilla though and leave it at that.