Europa League Semi Final Best Bets
Who is on their way to Baku?
Chelsea vs. Frankfurt
Maurizio Sarri will be very satisfied with his side’s 1-1 draw in Frankfurt last week, and he’ll be confident his side will finish the job at Stamford Bridge to progress to the Europa League Final. The Blues have lost just twice at home in all competitions all season, and while a score-draw will guarantee at least extra-time for the visitors, it’s hard to see Chelsea slip-up at this crucial stage.
I’ve gone on record numerous times waxing lyrical about this Eintracht Frankfurt side, and this special season can never be taken away from them, but their small squad looks stretched to the limit, and their domestic and European endeavours appear to be petering out.
One win in seven for the Germans—most recently a ridiculous 6-1 mauling at the hands of fellow Champions League-chasing Bayer Leverkusen (all the goals coming in the first-half)—suggests they’re running out of steam.
For this reason, my Best Bet is for Chelsea to win and both teams to score.
While Kepa has kept five clean sheets in his last eight outings at Stamford Bridge, the return of Ante Rebic is a huge boost for the visitors, who are certainly more than capable of breaching Chelsea’s defences, particularly if Luca Jovic is in the mood.
While I’d love to see Frankfurt make it to the final, I’ve finally come to the grim realisation that their journey will probably end on Thursday; but mark my words, they’ll go down fighting.
Valencia vs. Arsenal
Writing about Arsenal is getting tiring. Unai Emery’s erratic, unpredictable gaggle of Gooners never fail to surprise me – making tipping incredibly difficult. Beat Napoli twice over two legs? No problem. Earn more than one point against Crystal Palace, Wolves, Leicester and Brighton to help secure Champions League football next season? Nope, they can’t be bothered with that.
While trying to work out whether Emery’s Arsenal are any good; whether they’re a genuine improvement over Arsene Wenger’s weary water-treaders, they’ve still put themselves in the box seat of a European semi-final. They can’t screw this up, can they?
It’s tough to say. There’s as much chance of Alexandre Lacazette torturing the Valencia defence as there is of Shkodran Mustafi reverting to Hungover Titus Bramble Mode.
Arsenal will be happy with their 3-1 victory at The Emirates, but an appalling recent away record (eight defeats in their last 13) surely means this tie is far from over. It’s clear that the Napoli victory is an outlier in this respect.
Valencia have lost only three times at Mestalla all season, and I’m expecting them to beat Arsenal. The Gunners’ dreadful away displays against BATE Borisov and Rennes cannot be ignored, and considering they can afford to lose and still qualify for the final, backing a home victory is far from outlandish.
That said, despite their shocking away record, I do expect Europa League specialist Emery to guide his side to Baku – by the skin of their teeth. Therefore, my Best Bet is an interesting longshot: Valencia to win 2-1.
Marcelino’s men have won seven of their last nine on home soil, and this’ll be a huge test of the Gunners’ oft-questioned mental fortitude. Valencia to win and Arsenal to scrape through does seem a likely scenario, so it’s worth backing at $9*.