While the Europa League is certain to stay in Iberia for the third straight season, with Sporting Lisbon joining three of La Liga’s finest in the semi-finals, it’s still tough to call the title’s ultimate resting place.
All four semi-finalists have been impressive in reaching this stage, with Sporting particularly showing their class in defeating expensively-assembled Manchester City, while Athletic Bilbao really came to the attention of many in Europe by dismantling Premier League champions Manchester United in the round of 16.
With the first leg at Sporting’s Estadio Jose Alvalade likely to be crucial in determining who makes it to Bucharest, the home side start as slight favourites at 8/5 in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with a Bilbao win priced at 9/4 and the draw at 33/20.
Semi-finals first legs can often be cagey games with both teams desperate to not be out of the tie before it starts with the trophy so close in sight and a goalless first half is available at 39/20.
Yet that would go completely against the style in which both Sporting and Athletic have approached the competition, averaging three goals each a round in the knockout stages, so over 2.5 goals at 22/25 seems the better way to go.
Bilbao followed their scintillating five-goal show against United with an even more potent attacking display in defeating a Schalke side who sit third in the Bundesliga 6-4 in the quarter-finals and they are 7/5 to get at least another two goals here.
However, to continue their run of three straight Europa road wins, Marcelo Bielsa’s team will have to do something that hasn’t been done in three seasons – beat Sporting in Europe at the Jose Alvalade, where they have won all six ties in this season’s competition.
New customers using the free £25 bet they receive when joining bwin.com would win £102.50 should Sporting continue their winning streak in a game of over 2.5 goals.
Having said that, home boss Ricardo Sa Pinto will still be concerned given Sporting’s shocking record of one win in ten against sides from La Liga and the prospect of facing one of Europe’s hottest strikers in Fernando Llorente.
The Lion King has averaged a goal a game away in Europe and punters looking for longer odds can back him at to grab the opening goal in a 2-1 Bilbao win at 30/1.
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