A weakened Arsenal can still score Europa League goals on Thursday says Andy Schooler, who also has a 13/2 shot for you.
Atalanta v Everton – 1800 BST, BT Sport 2 & Showcase
The good, old Europa League group stage is back and with it the minefield that is team news – or lack of it.
Many managers will make changes but few are prepared to reveal the scope of them in the days before the game which makes planning a bet a difficult affair.
I’m usually seeking a decent-sized price in such previews with some English sides having gone off woefully short at times with weakened line-ups.
Everton don’t really fit the bill this season though. It’s hard to see them going off particularly short in many of their group games given they’ve been placed alongside Lyon, Apollon Limassol and Thursday night’s opponents, Atalanta.
They are favourites to win the pool though – perhaps that’s a market in which they can be taken on.
Serie A side Atlanta would appear the most likely to deny Everton and last season’s semi-finalists Lyon places in the last 32 and the Toffees will want to avoid needing to play catch up, something they will have to do should they lose this one.
Bergamo-based Atalanta finished fourth in Serie A last season, although it has to be said some way behind the top three of Juventus, Roma and Napoli. Still, they have qualified for European football for the first time in 25 years.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given their unexpected success of 2016/17, other clubs targeted their stars in the summer and there have been some notable departures, Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti being two of the most prominent.
Alejandro Gomez remains and the Argentine international is now widely recognised as their most dangerous player going forward.
After a summer of change, Atalanta have lost two of their opening three domestic league games and also face the added problem of having to play home games elsewhere – this contest will be played at the home of Sassuolo, a two-hour drive from Bergamo, where their home ground is being renovated.
So, there are factors that will encourage the visitors, who were well beaten by Spurs at the weekend and will also have one eye on a Sunday trip to Manchester United.
Changes are bound to come from Ronald Koeman although the good news is that Everton’s squad is now strong and there is no clear first XI given the players they have at their disposal. The likes of Tom Davies and Phil Jagielka are more than capable of coming in and doing a good job.
A draw probably suits Everton here – winning home games in this competition will be the target for Koeman and co – and with that in mind the 23/10 about a stalemate could be the way to go.
More likely though is under 2.5 goals. Everton’s two games in the qualifying stages of the Europa League (both of which came in under the 2.5 mark) were pretty staid affairs and I can easily see them focusing on keeping things tight and trying to thwart, particularly with a lack of pace in their team being an issue at present.
Arsenal v Cologne – 2005 BST, BT Sport 2
Early indications suggest the Europa League is not towards the top of Arsene Wenger’s priority list.
He’s already confirmed that Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey will be rested, while Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Welbeck and Granit Xhaka also missed training on Wednesday and look unlikely to start.
That team news has seen Arsenal drift in a whole host of markets but given the problems that their opponents have had so far this season, it may be something of an over-reaction.
The Germans remain pointless after three games in the Bundesliga having conceded seven goals in those matches.
They face another tough game on Sunday – against Borussia Dortmund – and as Frank de Boer found out this week at Crystal Palace, you don’t want a barren domestic run to last too long.
There’s every chance Cologne will be resting players too and Arsenal’s squad strength could easily carry them through.
Olivier Giroud, whose goalscoring record in a Gunners shirt remains strong, and Alexis Sanchez both look set to start. While the wantaway Chilean's motivation can be called into question, the former is seeking his 100th Arsenal goal and on Wednesday was speaking about how he had unfinished business with the north Londoners.
Per Mertescaker, Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi are other quality players ready to step in and, given the price changes, I’m tempted to back the Gunners.
The route I’m going to take is for them to score in each half at odds-against.
There’s still more than enough talent in the XI Arsenal will be able to field to score goals – something they’ve regularly done against weak opposition in the Champions League over the years.
They put six past Ludogorets last season, netted three times against Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates the year before and whacked four past Galatasaray in 2014/15. There are longer-term trends too but these seem most relevant.
Yes, they won't be at their strongest but they will be facing a team lacking confidence which also has one eye on a game further down the road. SunBets offer 5/4 but plenty of firms will give you odds-against which looks fair enough, especially when you consider Arsenal have netted four and three in their home games so far this season (both games saw them score in each half).
Best of the rest
Europa League group stage nights certainly throw up a few more shock results than their Champions League counterparts and one team it may be worth taking a chance on in this round of games is FK Vardar.
The Skopje-based side are the first from Macedonia to reach the group stages of European football and they’ve done so impressively.
Starting their season back in early July, they’ve progressed to this stage largely courtesy of some eye-catching results on home soil.
First up, Swedes Malmo were beaten 3-1, last season’s Champions League competitors FC Copenhagen lost 1-0 in the Philip II National Arena and in the play-off round of this competition it was Turkish outfit Fenerbahce who were dismissed 2-0.
Since that victory late last month, Vardar have won all four domestic league games and now are ready to bid to claim another scalp, namely Russian big-spenders Zenit.
Roberto Mancini is now in charge of the St Petersburg side but they hardly come into this one in sparkling form.
They’ve failed to score in their last two Russian league games and their previous Europa League away game (in the play-offs) saw them beaten 1-0 in Utrecht.
If you throw in defeats to Anderlecht and AZ Alkmaar from last season, Zenit have now lost three of their last four European games.
The 13/2 about a home win makes some appeal. For the less brave, 47/10 in the draw-no-bet market or 7/4 in the double-chance are viable alternatives.
Recommended bets: Europa League
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Posted at 2110 BST on 13/09/17.