Favourites to qualify their status

  • By: Ian Ogg
  • Last Updated: May 1 2014, 20:16 BST

Ian Ogg previews the semi-final second legs in Thursday's UEFA Europa League ties.

Andrea Pirlo can help pull the strings for The Old Lady
Andrea Pirlo can help pull the strings for The Old Lady

Both ties are evenly poised with Benfica taking a 2-1 lead to Juventus and Valencia looking to overhaul a 2-0 deficit when they host La Liga rivals Sevilla.

Understandably, the home teams are favourites for both matches but while Juventus are 4/6 to qualify, Valencia are 11/2 to get past Los Hispalenses despite, as footballing pundits are wont to tell us, 2-0 being a dangerous scoreline.

I can think of worse ones and the tie could have been over for Valencia but for a fine save from Vicente Guaita just before half-time to keep the score at 2-0.

Valencia beat their opponents 3-1 at the Mestalla in September (and also drawing 0-0 in an ill-tempered reverse fixture that saw both sides finish with 10 men) and that will provide Los Che with the belief that they can still progress to the final.

After all, they dispatched Basle 5-0 at home in the previous round having gone 3-0 down in the first leg but Seville, who sit 14 points higher in the league table, should be a different proposition to the Swiss table toppers.

True, they lost 3-1 to Bilbao at the weekend, a result that could do irreparable harm to their Champions League aspirations, but Unai Emery opted to play a weakened team for that fixture and Seville's focus is clearly on this competition so they should be at full strength on Thursday.

An away goal should put the tie beyond their hosts and Seville have the firepower to achieve that with goalscoring midfielder Ivan Rakitic set to be restored to the line-up while Kevin Gameiro is in a rich vein of form that has seen him net seven in his last six.

Backing both teams to score looks a little short at around 4/6 and 4/7 but it's not difficult to envisage this game becoming more stretched in the second half when Valencia may well have to throw caution to the wind and, as a result, the 11/10 about the second 45 minutes providing the most goals is also worthy of consideration.

Juventus' defeat at the Stadium of Light was their first in the Europa League this season and they can be expected to avenge the loss in Turin where they are unbeaten in their last 27 games.

They were a shade unfortunate in the first leg having bombarded Artur Moraes' goal and the Portuguese could struggle to keep them at bay second time around with Llorente and Tevez a threat to any defence in Europe.

The prices do reflect that, however, and although I wouldn't put anyone off looking at Juventus to win to nil (four clean sheets in their last seven) or the correct score markets, I prefer to keep this simple.

Ultimately I expect Sevilla to do enough to join Juventus in the final and at around evens that's a scenario worth backing.