Birmingham City play host to NK Maribor on Thursday night knowing that even a victory might not be enough to prolong their Europa League adventure.
City currently sit in third place in Group H with both Club Brugge and Braga, who play each other in the final round of games, three points ahead of them.
For Birmingham to have any chance of playing European football after Christmas, then, they must beat Maribor and hope that Braga see off Brugge. This scenario would see them through to the knockout stages thanks to their superior record over the Belgian club.
The Blues are rightly favourites for the game at St. Andrews, given that they have only lost once at home all season and that was to last year’s beaten Europa League finalists, Braga.
Maribor have a tendency to concede late goals. In fact, they have let in six in the last 15 minutes of their previous five European fixtures.
They are priced at 11/20 to seal a win in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with their opponents 21/4 outsiders and the draw at 14/5.
Still, Blues boss Chris Hughton and his players are unlikely to be taking their opposition lightly after having to come from behind when they won 2-1 in Slovenia earlier in the campaign.
Looking back at that victory will be important for the players as it demonstrates that Maribor have a tendency to concede late goals. In fact, they have let in six in the last 15 minutes of their previous five European fixtures.
Given that Birmingham themselves have had problems with scoring in the first half of games (they have managed it just once in their five matches), the City fans may have to chew a few nails before they see their side take control of this game.
Birmingham scoring the final goal of the match is priced at 9/20, which is a bit too short to make it a worthwhile bet, but you can get 27/20 on the home side scoring more goals in the second half than the first.
This second option looks far more attractive when you also consider that the Blues have scored six times more goals in the second half of their previous group games than in the first.
New customers signing up to a bwin account will receive a free £25 bet and using it successfully on odds of 27/20 would bring home winnings of £58.75.
With Birmingham at such short odds to win the game on Thursday, I like the look of combining a City win with a victory for Braga, which would mean second spot in the group for the English club, to form multi-bet odds of almost 4/1.
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