For some managers (and players (and even some fans)) it’s Champions League or nothing, but anyone who likes wining money and, really, who doesn’t, the Europa League is just one more opportunity to line your own pockets at the sportsbook’s expense. The bookies have Juve as the favourites to lift the Europa league trophy this season at 7/2, then the lesser teams odds Tottenham 8/1, Napoli 10/1, Fiorentina and Shakhtar Donetsk round out the top five at 14/1 apiece.
Just outside of that top five (odds-wise) sit Benfica on 16/1 and way down at the other end of the odds table is Thursday night’s opposition PAOK Salonki (or to give them their full title Pan-Thessalonian Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans (or even ?a??essa?????e??? ????t???? ?µ???? ???sta?t???p???t?? for any Greek speakers out there) at 200/1.
It’s clear that there is a huge gulf between these sides, but will it be apparent on the pitch on Thursday?
Enough with the gulf…WHERES THE MONEY MIKE?
The basics are as follows, a win for Benfica is offered up at best soccer odds of 11/10, a draw is at 23/10 and a PAOK win is at 11/4. Pretty obvious really.
What’s more Benfica to qualify is at 2/7. While PAOK upsetting the odds is at ¼. I don’t see a surprise in this match up, Benfica are the better team and whey will come out on top over two legs (possibly over both legs).
How did we get here
It’s worth mentioning that at this stage of the competitions there are three different ways that a team may have used to book its place in the final 32. This final 32 (knockout teams) is made up of the 12 teams who won their groups, 12 Group stage runners up and 8 third place Champions League (dropouts) group stages.
PAOK booked their place in the last 32 of the Europa league thanks to the fact that they finished second in their Group (Group L) it may have been “just” second but they were tied on points with the Group’s winners, AZ Alkmaaar, so it was hardly a disappointing silver.
PAOK managed three wins and three draws from their six group games scoring 10 goals and conceding just six.
Benfica were one of this Champions League sides who failed to make it through to the next stage so took a step back to the Europa competition. They came third in their group (Group C) tied (on 10 points) with second place Olympiacos, but with a worse goal difference. They also had to face up to the fact that they failed to beat Olympiacos (losing away and drawing at home), which condemned them to the Europa league.
The bookies have this game going over 2.5 goals at 11/10 (and Under at 7/10 but that’s hardly a money spinner. We can also skip the halftime/full time odds, as Benfica winning both halves is at a very uninspiring 12/5. If you fancy a daft bet go for a draw on the 45 and on the 90 at 4/1, but I'm not doing that, although 1-1 is the shortest correct score odds out there at 6/1, and a score draw is at 7/2.
For our soccer picks we think Benfica will win this one, and win by a single goal (a 1 goal Benfica winning margin is at 13/5 with the sportsbooks).
Prediction: Benfica win 2-1 available at best soccer odds of 17/2 with Coral.