THE Europa League is much maligned but there are plenty of big names aiming for a last-eight spot tonight.
Clubs such as Dortmund, Leverkusen, Valencia and of course Liverpool and Man United would rather be in the big one. But the carrot of a Champions League place to the winner has made the big guns focus on lifting the trophy.
Liverpool and United meet in Europe for the first time tonight and I’ve posted a separate preview.
The third English survivors Spurs face a tough test away to the might of Borussia Dortmund who showed their defensive qualities by holding Bayern Munich to a 0-0 draw at the weekend. The Germans have kept eight clean sheets in their last 10 and will be tough to break down.
I’m on antepost favourites Dortmund at 4-7 with William Hill to take a lead to London and consider 29-goal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score first at 7-2 at 888sport.
Spurs, who have fielded slightly weakened sides the whole tournament, are still without defender Jan Vertonghen and forward Clinton N’Jie while Dele Alli is banned and Danny Rose and Eric Dier have been left at home.
Another interesting tie sees Villarreal tackle Bayer Leverkusen. The Yellow Submarine won 1-0 at home to Napoli on the way to knocking out the Italians in the previous round and while they’re strong in front of their fans they were shocked 1-0 at home to Las Palmas at the weekend.
Bayer hit back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Augsburg and with coach Roger Schmidt hit with a touchline they have conceded 10 in three games.
Villarreal have won all four Europa League home games without conceding and if it wasn’t for that Las Palmas loss I’d have considered them for the Super Single at 23-20 with bet365.
Leverkusen are without defender Roberto Hilbert for both legs but central defenders Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Jonathan Tah and Omer Toprak have travelled and strike duo Javier Hernandez and and Stefan Kiessling have been passed fit. Key men Kevin Kampl and Lars Bender remain sidelined.
Villarreal are without midfielders Samuel and Jonathan dos Santos due to metatarsal and Achilles tendon injuries respectively but forward Leo Baptistao is fit.
There is an all-Spanish affair as Athletic Bilbao face Valencia with the home men 4-5 at Coral to beat their rivals for the third time this season.
Gary Neville’s results are improving but they lost 3-0 at home to Bilbao recently and last October, under previous manager Nuno Espirito Santo, were defeated 3-1 at the San Mames.
Neville is without midfielder Enzo Perez and winger Denis Cheryshev, who sustained a thigh injury during the weekend’s 3-1 defeat at home by Atletico Madrid in which he scored Valencia’s only goal. The Russian is expected to miss the next month.
Athletic’s veteran striker Aritz Aduriz is the top scorer in the Europa League with seven but is a doubt having suffered a knock. Head coach Ernesto Valverde is also without Ibai Gomez (foot) and Inaki Williams (ankle).
The final Spanish side Sevilla travel to a Basel outfit still dreaming of playing the Final on home soil after a last-gasp win against St Etienne in the last 32.
Sevilla are going for a hat-trick of Europa League trophies but are still without a La Liga win on the road and a weakened side lost 1-0 at Molde in the last round. Best bet here could be both to score at 11-14 with 888sport.
Sparta Prague are one of Europe’s form teams with nine wins on the bounce and should at least avoid defeat at home to Lazio.
In other games Sporting Braga visit Fenerbahce, and Anderlecht travel to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Bets to Consider
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score first
Dortmund to score 2+
Basel v Sevilla btts
Sparta Prague not to lose