Trust tight defences in Europa
Ben Linfoot previews Thursday night's quarter-final action in the Europa League and he has two bets advised.
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Ben Linfoot previews Thursday night's quarter-final action in the Europa League and he has two bets advised. All four quarter-finals in the UEFA Europa League conclude on Thursday night and three of them are on a knife-edge at 1-0, with Basel the only team with one foot in the last four following their 3-0 triumph over Valencia in the first leg. That match was played behind closed doors and an injury-time goal added gloss to Basel's win, but odds of 1/14 about the Swiss qualifying emphasizes the task in hand for the La Liga outfit. Looking at their overall record it's probably beyond them. Los Che sit eighth in La Liga currently and they are without a win in their last four games, though they have won by a margin of three or more three times at home this season, which offers some hope. Basel are without injured striker Marco Streller and suspended defender Marek Suchy, but forward Giovanni Sio returns from suspension and they should be solid enough and compact enough to stop Valencia from scoring three. Certainly, in the first leg that wasn't a problem and they have in fact kept a clean sheet in each of their last five games. That would put me off backing Valencia at 4/7 and when you consider the spaces potentially available to Basel on the break, the Swiss side might not be a bad bit of business to win the game at around 9/2. However, Valencia were unbeaten in nine Europa League games prior to their defeat in Basel and back in front of their own fans they won't throw in the towel. It's difficult to find a betting angle and we'll leave it alone. In Benfica v AZ Alkmaar the bookies are happy to lay the 0-0 half-time score on account of the home side's good recent run of opening the scoring prior to the break. The hosts have scored in the first half in each of their last four home games but they will find things tougher against an AZ side that won't risk anything until much later in the match. With it being just 1-0 the Dutch side are likely to be content to try and frustrate the home team and their record on the road in Europe suggests they are capable of pulling such tactics off. They are unbeaten in six games away in Europe this season, but have averaged just one goal a game on the road since the start of the group stage. They have also failed to score in three of their last four games and such a lean spell in front of goal may force their hand as far as tactics go. With Benfica not needing to score at all, this could be a highly tactical match with few chances for the first half at least and 0-0 at the break is an appealing wager at 9/4. The no goalscorer option also appeals in Juventus v Lyon, but for the whole game at big-looking 12/1. Juventus have a formidable defence as just four goals conceded in their last 13 games shows, and we had to wait 85 minutes for the breakthrough in the first leg. The danger with this bet is that if the game opens up in the latter stages then Juve could pounce on the break, but after a largely even contest in the first game we could see another arm wrestle for the full 90. The key thing here is that Juve don't need to score - and they are very good at holding onto what they've got. Lyon are good enough to complete their part of the bargain, by keeping out a side containing Carlos Tevez. However, though the Argentinian has 18 goals to his name in Serie A this campaign, he has none in Europe. Finally, in Sevilla v Porto the home side look a bit short at a shade of odds-on for single bet purposes, but they should be strongly considered for your Thursday night acca. Porto are without prolific striker Jackson Martinez who is suspended, while Luis Castro's team haven't won any of their last four away games. Sevilla went on a bit of a wobble at home at the turn of the year, but they have been in good form of late winning their last three at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán and they should get the job done - though extra-time is a big player. If you wanted to roll the dice, Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala scored the only goal last week - his fifth of the season and his third in Porto's Europa League campaign. The centre-back is 40/1 with bet365 to score the first goal and they pay unlimited places for each-way purposes.
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