Europa League Preview: Plenty of goals in Sweden
The Europa League returns on Thursday, with 15 matches in total. Infogol’s Analyst previews Arsenal’s trip to Ostersunds, as well as giving the best bets from elsewhere.
Arsenal travel to sub-zero Sweden to face Ostersunds at 18:00 on Thursday, and it is looking increasingly likely that the Gunners will have to win this competition in order to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Ostersunds Expected Goals
Managed by Graham Potter, the sole Englishman still managing a club in European competition, Ostersunds rise has been remarkable. After being in the fourth division of Swedish football in 2011, they made the Europa League qualifiers in 2017 and haven’t looked back.
They came through three qualifying rounds before being drawn in a group with Spain’s Athletic Bilbao, Germany’s Hertha Berlin and Ukraine’s Zorya Luhansk, and were outsiders to qualify. They made it through comfortably in the end, though, thanks to three wins and two draws from their six games – only missing out on top spot though a worse head-to-head record.
They created plenty of chances in their group matches, averaging 1.4 xG per game, but were also vulnerable defensively, averaging 1.7 xG in their six matches. They may find themselves outgunned against Arsenal, though.
Arsenal Expected Goals
Arsenal cruised through their group, despite playing a second string team for the most part, winning four of their six matches and losing just once.
Their xG totals were also impressive, generating 12.7 xG and conceding just 5.5 xG – with an expected goal difference (7.2) that was one of the best in the group stage.
Having been knocked out of the FA Cup, they have no game this weekend, and with the Carabao Cup final next weekend, Arsene Wenger should be looking to get this tie wrapped up before the second leg next week.
Arsenal were impressive in the group stage, creating plenty of chances in matches despite fielding weakened teams, and are expected to make light work of a spirited Ostersunds team in a high-scoring game in Sweden.
Over 2.5 goals @ 8/11
Best of the rest
Dortmund vs Atalanta – 18:00
Dortmund, who drop from the Champions League, face Atalanta, who impressed in the group stage, finishing above last year’s semi-finalist Lyon. An exciting first leg is expected between two attacking teams, so plenty of goals are forecast.
Selection – Over 2.5 goals @ 4/6
Celtic vs Zenit – 20:05
Celtic had a difficult Champions League group, and it was no surprise to see them only manage third. Zenit walked their Europa group, and have a lot of quality in their team, arguably more than Celtic, so are fancied to get a first leg lead.
Selection – Zenit to win @ 6/4
Lyon vs Villarreal – 20:05
Lyon are known around Europe for their attacking play, and that was exactly what we saw in the group stage, but it wasn’t enough for them to finish top. Villarreal made hard work of an easy group, and conceded a lot of chances in their matches, so the home team are selected to win.
Selection – Lyon to win @ 19/20
Napoli vs RB Leipzig – 20:05
Napoli, currently top of Serie A, surprised many by failing to qualify from their Champions League group, a comment that also applies (albeit to a lesser extent) to RB Leipzig. These are two strong teams, with very little between them, so a tight low-scoring affair is expected.
Selection – Under 2.5 goals @ 11/10