The Group Stage of the Europa League climaxes on Thursday and there promises to be plenty of drama, especially in Group G.
Rangers to win @ 41/20
All four teams can still qualify from the pool and Rangers will be eyeing a massive win in the Austrian capital when they take on Rapid Vienna.
The hosts need only a draw to progress after netting twice late on to win 2-1 at Spartak Moscow last month and have not lost any of their last 12 group stage games at home in this competition.
However, Rapid have failed to score in their last three at The Allianz Stadion and currently sit eighth in the Austrian Bundesliga.
Rangers have a poor record on the road in Europe but won the reverse fixture 3-1. They have gone off the boil in recent weeks, losing at home to Aberdeen and drawing at Dundee but this is the type of night boss Steven Gerrard relished as a player and, with Rapid seemingly on the slide, it could be the Gers’ night in ‘The City of Dreams’.
Villarreal to win to zero @ 29/20
Despite sitting 17th in La Liga, Villarreal are unbeaten in Europe this season and top Group G ahead of Thursday’s visit of Spartak Moscow.
El Submarino Amarillo’s squad will have a point to prove with this being new boss Luis Garcia’s first game in charge following Monday’s sacking of Javi Calleja.
The 46-year-old has enjoyed a nomadic existence in recent years, coaching in both the UAE and China, but this could be his big break and an opening win would be very convenient.
Spartak are in good form, though, and while history is against them, head into their domestic three-month break on the back of a three-match winning run,
The Narodnaya Komanda have failed to score in both Vienna and Glasgow and are traditionally weak on the road in Europe, winning just one of their last 12 away games.
With Villarreal perfect at the Ceramica against Russian opposition, a home win to zero looks the outcome to back.
Genk to win and both to score @ 29/20
Group I is the other pool where all four teams can still qualify but it could be heartbreak for the minnows and Belgium’s Genk should have far too much for Norway’s Sarpsborg.
The pair sit top and bottom of the table respectively and anything but a defeat will see Genk through, although they will surely want more, with top spot within their grasp.
Philippe Clement’s side went down 3-1 in Norway but have lost just one of their last 13 since that game and are yet to be beaten at home in Europe this term.
It could have been oh so different for Sarpsborg on Matchday 5, squandering a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 on home soil to Besiktas and maybe the step up in level has started to catch up on them. Rustiness could also be an issue with that disappointing defeat having been their last competitive game.
The Norwegians have won only one of their last 10 on the road but, encouragingly, have scored in all five of their Group I games.
Genk, though, have qualified from the group stages of the Europa League in each of the last three seasons and should repeat the trick, while their Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta looks a good man to back in the Anytime market at 11/10, having netted nine times so far in this competition.
Besiktas to win and both to score @ 41/20
On the other side of the pool, Besiktas should also prosper against Scandinavian opposition when Malmo travel to Istanbul.
The Black Eagles usually soar at home, having lost just twice in their last 18 European matches in front of their own fans.
Like Sarpsborg, a lack of match practice could be an issue for Malmo with the Swedish Eliteserien already in hiatus for the winter.
Interestingly, the home side have gone 91 games without a 0-0 draw in this competition. Some 60 per cent of their last 25 competitive home games have also finished with both teams scoring so expect an open game but the Turks to win.
Celtic to win @ 31/20
Of the matches kicking off at 8pm, the Group B fixture at Parkhead appears fascinating, with Celtic requiring a point against already-qualified Salzburg to go through.
After crashing out of Champions League qualifying, the Bhoys looked set to experience a similar fate in this competition but have bounced back and everything seems rosy again.
Salzburg have been imperious, winning all five of their games, one of only three teams to do so, and their double over sister outfit Leipzig shows last season’s semi-final appearance was no fluke.
Die Rotten Bullen already sit 14 points clear in the Austrian Bundesliga so have no reason to rest their key players.
However, excuse the clichés, but there is something special about European nights at Parkhead when Celtic have their tails up and a home win looks a magnificent price.
Olympiakos v AC Milan – Draw @ 23/10
Another former European champion also needs to get something at 8pm as AC Milan head to Olympiakos.
The Rossoneri occupy second spot in Group F and they have a two-goal cushion to play with having beaten the Greeks 3-1 at home to help build a three-point advantage over Thursday’s opposition.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side have hardly been convincing this season, although they are undefeated on the road in the Europa League, while Olympiakos are yet to lose at home.
This promises to be a cagey affair and a point each might well be the outcome, especially as Milan have never won in Greece.
Slavia Prague to win to zero @ 31/20
Finally, at the same time in Group C, Slavia Prague have the perfect chance to qualify when they host Zenit St Petersburg.
Zenit have already booked their progress and are yet to lose in this season’s competition, including a 1-0 win against their Czech opponents in October.
While they still lead the Russian Premier League, the Sine-Belo-Golubye have lost their last two and may have their minds elsewhere with this their final game before the winter break.
Slavia also top their domestic division but have obvious defensive frailties, having not kept a clean sheet in their last six. This is likely to be a cagey affair, but home advantage should just about tell.
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