IT’S still difficult to grasp the fact Man United and Man City have parachuted down to the Europa League where they kick off their campaigns tonight.

The Champions League is where the title contenders want to be and it remains to be seen how seriously they’ll treat Europe’s secondary competition.

You can bet they’ll be fielding weakened teams in this tournament if matches coincide with the title run-in. But for tonight’s round of 32 first legs you could will strong line-ups because neither side has a game at the weekend having also been booted out of the FA Cup.

Both clubs were handed difficult ties with United’s trip to Ajax the easier looking on paper. Ajax have won just one in five and face a United side resting just three players, Dimitar Berbatov, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs.

A United side almost at full strength should win this and could do so by more than one if the defence keep their wits about them.

United are a biggest 17-20 with Paddy Power while Ajax are 7-2 at bet365 and others. If United are in the mood they could cover the -1 handicap (2-1, Ladbrokes, Coral).

Wayne Rooney has netted four in two games and is 9-2 at William Hill to hit the opener although sidekick Danny Welbeck (13-2, bet365, Paddy Power) will be fighting him for that honour.

City are also sending a strong side to Porto with the Toures back in the squad and Mario Balotelli included. He’ll be champing at the bit for a piece of the action as he serves his domestic ban and has a chance to score first at 6-1 with bet365.

Porto have Hulk but the man to watch could be the incredible James Rodriguez. The exciting attacker is the club’s top scorer with nine goals and is 8-1 at bodog and Blue Square to strike first.

I don’t see City losing although they’ve just once in six away games so a draw wouldn’t be a complete surprise. City are a best 15-8 with BetVictor.

Porto have won nine out of 10 in the league and will be a tough nut to crack. They are 17-10 with William Hill and others while the draw pays 23-10 at Paddy Power.

The Manchester clubs won’t be giving the tournament as a whole their full focus but the third English survivors Stoke will be going all out to win it.

Tony Pulis’ men have enjoyed their first European foray since 1975 and have pulled a plum with Valencia heading for the Brittania.

Stoke have won five and drawn two of seven home European ties while Valencia have won just one in 15 on English soil and just four on their La Liga travels this season.

However, they are currently the third best team in La Liga behind Real Madrid and Barcelona so you can’t dismiss their chances. Stoke have won just four out of 12 at home in the Premier League and that worries me.

Valencia are class and deserve respect and I’m going to sit on the fence and take a first-leg draw. Stoke are 2-1 at Paddy Power, the draw pays 23-10 at Coral and the Spanish are 13-8 favourites at William Hill.

Elsewhere Udinese are probably the best bets at 4-5 with William Hill at home to PAOK even if top scorer Antonio di Natale is rested.

The Italians and Hannover, who face a rejuvenated Bruges, are the only sides odds-on at home which shows how difficult it is for punters.

Atletico Madrid haven’t conceded in seven games under new boss Diego Simeone and could be worth a look at 11-5 with William Hill away to a Lazio side going well and sitting third in Serie A.

Sporting Lisbon are another side who have changed gaffers and if Legia Warsaw can get into their stride after not playing a competitive games this year the Poles could be worth taking at 5-2 with bet365.

I like the look of PSV at Trabzonspor while Schalke should win away to Viktoria Plzen if they put out their stars. PSV are 17-10 at BetVictor while you can have the Germans at 6-5 with Betfred.


Man Utd -1

(2-1, Ladbrokes, Coral)

Legia Warsaw +1

(8-13, Skybet)

Huntelaar to score first for Schalke

(4-1, William Hill, Skybet)

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  1. pedro 6 years ago

    Lazio bust my coupon. Should have took your advice!

    • Profile photo of Mr Fixit Author
      Mr Fixit 6 years ago

      Pedro, Atletico have been great in recent weeks but I can see why you fancied Lazio. A tough night all round really.

  2. pedro 6 years ago

    I had five out of six. Could have easily replaced Lazio with psv or valencia. Lazio cost me 300 quid for a fiver. Aww well. Live to fight another day!

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