The UEFA Europa League returns this season and while it’s not as glamorous of a competition as Europe’s premier competition that is the Champions League there are some very fascinating matches between some tournament debutants and established sides in Europe.
In this Europa League Round-Up we look at three standout matches:
Group A: Valencia CF vs. Swansea City (Estadio Mestalla) – Thursday September 19, 2013
In this match although these are two clubs that are meeting for the first time and this is Swansea’s first match against Spanish opposition there is an air of familiarity about this match, as both sides play a similar styles, Michael Laudrup having previously coached in La Liga and quite a few players that have been imported from Spain.
Coming into this match Valencia are on a poor run of form having lost its last three league matches and have conceded 9 goals in that span, recently appointed coach Miroslav Djukic has quite a few quality players including newly signed Helder Postiega as well as Ever Banega and Andres Guardado that will worry the Swansea defensive unit. The Welsh side has by contrast had a tough start to the season with losses to Man United and Tottenham but are coming off its first win of the season against West Bromwich Albion, this is a very interesting squad under Laudrup that features last season’s surprise player in Michu and one of this season’s most hyped players in Wilfred Bony, how Valencia’s defenders deal with the movement of these two players will be vital.
I’m leaning toward the OVER in this match with both sides styles of play being very attacking, however above all else this is a match to sit back and enjoy.
Prediction: OVER 2.5 (-110)
Group E: Fiorentina vs. Pacos Ferreira (Stadio Artemio Franchi) – Thursday September 19, 2013
The next match we’ll be taking a look at is another encounter between two sides that are meeting for the first time, as Portuguese side Pacos Ferreira takes on its first Italian opposition when they travel to Florence to take on the Viola.
Fiorentina has started the season off unbeaten and coach Vincenzo Montella have been getting quality production from its newly formed strike force, as the club sold Stefan Jovetic to EPL side Manchester City but replaced him with Italian-American forward Giuseppe Rossi coming off a serious injury and experienced German goal poacher Mario Gomez. The bad news for the Italian side is they will be without Gomez for a length of time due to suffering knee ligament damage, it will be up to the midfield and players like David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani to pick up the production. Pacos have gone winless to start the domestic season in Portugal and sit bottom of the league, although this is a tough task it’s an opportunity to pick up valuable experience in European competition.
Even without Gomez leading the line it’s difficult to go against Fiorentina, not only do they have a variety of other top talents but this will be a monumental challenge for the Portuguese side on its first European test in Italy.
Prediction: Fiorentina -1.5 (-105)
Group F: Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Girondins de Bordeaux (Commerzbank Arena) – Thursday September 19, 2013
The last match in our Round-Up sees Eintracht Frankfurt and Bordeaux meet in a very interesting clash.
Bordeaux comes into this match off the back of two losses domestically to Saint-Etienne and PSG and outside of Ludovic Obraniak struggle to produce a consistent attacking threat, however they’ve consistently been one of the better defensive sides, have a good record against German opposition and will be a tough test for Frankfurt. Under Armin Veh this is a Eintracht Frankfurt side that has risen back to prominence in such short order, going from getting promoted to securing European competition. The German side has underrated talents in midfield that have been among the best in Europe, its midfield three of Takashi Inui, Alexander Meier and Stefan Aigner will force Bordeaux coach Francis Gillot to adjust tactics.
I don’t think this match has many goals in it but I’m leaning towards Frankfurt to win this match, they just have more options in attack and will force Bordeaux to come out of its shell.
Prediction: Eintracht Frankfurt ML (+110)