Arsenal will be hoping to stand their position at the top of their UEFA Europa League group on Thursday when they visit a struggling Bundesliga side Fc Koln.
Despite drawing somewhat disappointingly at home to Red Star Belgrade on match-day four, a game in which they failed to find the net, Arsenal are in a very strong position at the top of Group H.
The Gunners have won three of their four matches, while they remain unbeaten. A win in this fixture would guarantee Arsene Wenger’s side a place in the knockout rounds.
Unlike the hosts, Koln has made hard work of this campaign. After four matches the German side find themselves bottom of the group, though, all is not yet lost. A win in this match would put Peter Stöger’s men in a reasonable position going into the final match.
Koln may have re-found their feet to beat BATE in the last round, but they still looked weak defensively in doing so, while it is also hard to ignore their overall performance in the group.
Koln has also been in terrible form domestically this season, as they find themselves bottom of the league. With Arsenal coming off the back of a big North London Derby victory at the weekend and knowing that a win here guarantees qualification, it’s easy to see the visitors coming out on top.
Having faced Koln on three previous occasions, Arsenal has a 100% record against the German side. When they met in the reverse fixture, Arsenal won by three goals to one.
Koln have conceded in 100% of their Europa League matches this season
Prediction: Over 2.5
Milan vs Austria Vienna
As things stand, Milan are top of Group D, as you would expect; however, they’ve not exactly been the most convincing at times. Vincenzo Montella’s side might sit top currently but, as they’re only two points clear, the race for 1st place is still on. Fortunately for the Italians, they face an Austria Vienna side that crumbled in the reverse fixture. A similar performance from I Rossoneri would surely see them come out on top in convincing fashion.
Austria Vienna did find life tough against Milan on home soil, so it’s hard to see the visitors making too much headway in this fixture.
The result often doesn’t tell us everything, but the gap in quality was clear in Vienna. On this basis, Milan are indeed expected to come out on top, though, as the Italians haven’t exactly been infallible defensively of late, from an attacking point of view, the visitors can have hope.
The reverse fixture, which saw AC Milan come out on top with a convincing 5-1 victory, is the only previous meeting between these two.
‘Over 3.5 Goals’ has landed in 75% of this pair’s combined Europa League matches this season.
Prediction: Milan Wins & Over 2.5
Athletic Bilbao vs Hertha
When the groups were drawn back in August, Bilbao and Hertha were strongly expected to dominate this pack; however, after four games, that really hasn’t been the case. As things stand, both Bilbao and Hertha are heading out, and so both need a win here. Similarly, neither side are thriving domestically – Hertha are 14th in the Bundesliga, while Bilbao are 15th in La Liga – and so some success in this competition could help boost confidence levels.
A win last time out in this competition has put Bilbao in a much stronger position as far as qualification goes, but José Ángel Ziganda will still be disappointed that his team have managed to accumulate just five points from a possible 12. Fortunately for the hosts, Hertha have been very poor away from home this season, therefore, this is a good opportunity for the Spanish side to register their second win of the competition
The reverse fixture between these two, which ended 0-0, is the only previous meeting.
Athletic Bilbao have won eight (80%) of their last ten home matches in the Europa League
Prediction: Over 1.5
Salzburg vs Victoria Guimaraes
Coming into this matchup, both sides find themselves in with a shot at qualification to the knockout stages. The advantage is certainly in Red Bulls favor as they go into this fixture top of the group on eight points, two points ahead of second-placed Marseille, and four points ahead of third and fourth-placed Vitoria and Konyaspor. A victory for Salzburg would seal their place in the knockout stages and if Marseille were to fail to win, top spot would be theirs too.
Vitoria will be looking to spoil the party as only a win would really do to give them any hope. A win for the Portuguese side would really put the cat among the pigeons and they will be playing with the pressure off as they go into this game.
Both sides have been in good form of late, with Salzburg edging it. Salzburg are unbeaten in their last fifteen matches in all competitions and they are even stronger at home not losing for twenty-five games, a run that stretches back to 2016. With Vitoria the visitors, they will be looking to topple that record as they embark on an upset and give it their last shot for qualification to the knockout stages.
Vitoria have lost only twice in their previous six games, winning three of them. When these two sides previously met earlier in the competition, it finished 1-1 that day. Salzburg were dominant for large parts of the game but were unable to find a winner and will have their eye on going one better here.
These two sides only previous meeting came earlier in the competition, ending in a 1-1 draw.
Salzburg are undefeated in their last nine Europa League fixtures.
Prediction: Salzburg Wins & Over 1.5
Everton vs Atalanta
The Toffees are already out with two games to spare. In contrast, Atalanta’s qualification hopes are very much alive; just a point from this match would guarantee the Italian side a place in the next phase of the competition.
Atalanta have of course done far better than Everton in this competition, and they will almost definitely be gracing the knockout rounds with their presence; however, the Italian side’s form on the road hasn’t been outstanding, far from it.
Having drawn away at both Lyon and, more surprisingly, Apollon, Atalanta have struggled to match what is strong home form on their travels.
In addition to Atalanta not quite finding their feet away in this competition, Everton probably hasn’t performed as badly at home as their results might suggest. The Toffees were a tad unlucky in drawing to Apollon initially, while they didn’t exactly enjoy the rub of the green when losing narrowly to Lyon in their most recent UEL match at Goodison. Since that defeat a managerial change has at least sparked some improvement, and, as they come here unbeaten in two, Everton are fancied to, at the very least, match an Atalanta team who’s on the slide.
The reverse fixture, which saw Atalanta win by three goals to nil back in September, is the only previous meeting between these two teams.
Atalanta have never won away from home in Europa League, while Everton have only lost four of their 21 historical home matches in this competition
Prediction: 12 & Over 1.5
Braga vs Hoffenheim
Considering that they managed to not just avoid defeat but win in Germany, it is surprising that Braga aren’t considered favourites ahead of this match. Hoffenheim really haven’t found their feet in the Europa League this season, and so the hosts should fancy their chances. Backing the hosts on the ‘Double Chance’ market really stands out.
Braga may well have lost their last UEL home match – which turned out to be a 0-2 defeat to group leaders Ludogorets – but too much shouldn’t be read into that result. Instead, their 2-1 win away in Germany is the result to focus on. Against Hoffenheim in that reverse fixture, Braga really did put in a typically astute counter-attacking performance.
If we consider that the visitors must attack, such is their position, it’s not hard to see the hosts executing something similar. Defensively, Braga haven’t been outstanding, so a Hoffenheim goal wouldn’t be out of the question, but with the way this one is set up – with Hoffenheim needing to make the running so to speak – Braga really should be able to utilise the counter to good effect.
The reverse fixture, which saw Braga walk away with a 2-1 victory away from home, is the only previous meeting between the two teams.
Hoffenheim have both scored and conceded in 100% of their Europa League matches this season.
Prediction: 12 & Over 1.5
Zenit vs Vardar
Coming into this game both sides find themselves in completely contrasting situations. Vardar come into this game playing only for pride. They are yet to gain a point out of the first four group games, losing each game.
They can come into this game with nothing to lose whilst looking to cause an upset in the group. Zenit find themselves in a commanding position in the group, in top spot. With ten points already, they are unbeaten in the group and are one point ahead of group rivals Real Sociedad. A win would potentially seal top spot and qualification to the knockout stages, depending on the other group result. As they are facing such a struggling side in Vardar they would see this as the perfect opportunity to seal their fate going into the final game week of the group stages.
Form suggests this could be a tough day out for Vardar. Zenit’s current home form has been really good. The Russian side have won a total of seven games in their last ten at home and will look to extend that run here. They will also take confidence in the fact that Vardar have won only one game in their last six away from home. To add to the Macedonian sides woes, they have also lost eight out of their last ten games in the Europa League.
The only previous meeting between these sides came earlier in the group stages where Zenit won 5-0.
Zenit have won 70% of their last ten home games, whilst Vardar have lost 80% of their last ten matches in the Europa League.
Prediction: Zenith Wins