With teams needing to win just two more ties before booking a trip to Bucharest, this Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first legs could prove to be tight affairs with so much on the line.
Every game has an Iberian feel with Spanish or Portuguese representation in each quarter and so it’s tough to see the trophy leaving south-west Europe for the first time in three years following Atletico Madrid’s maiden 2010 triumph and Porto’s victory last season.
Home advantage could help Atleti and Sporting Lisbon this evening but Athletic Bilbao and Valencia would surely be happy to still be level after tough away trips to Schalke and AZ Alkmaar respectively.
Should Valencia and Bilbao claim draws alongside wins for Atleti and Sporting, then new customers using the £25 free bet they receive when registering with bwin would win £847.25 at odds of around 33/1. Here’s why you should consider backing those four picks in a betting quadruple.
Atletico Madrid to beat Hannover @ 21/50
The first ever Europa League winners have been very impressive on their return to the latter stages of this competition having comprehensively beaten Besiktas and Lazio en route to this meeting with German surprise packages Hannover.
Though Mirko Slomka’s side may not be matching their league form of last season which saw them finish fourth in the Bundesliga, they have put in some impressive performances in Europe, including eliminating another La Liga powerhouse in Sevilla.
However, with just one league away win in 2012 they don’t look the side to end Atleti’s run of nine straight Europa League wins at the Vicente Calderon.
AZ Alkmaar to draw with Valencia @ 12/5
After dispatching multiple Eredivisie champions PSV in the last round and with Roberto Soldado having scored six in his last five games, Unai Emery will be hopeful his Valencia side can go ‘double-Dutch’ with a win at Alkmaar.
However, the hosts are a tough nut to crack at home and have gone 14 league games unbeaten at the AFAS Stadion, meaning the draw is the best way to go in this one.
Schalke to draw with Athletic Bilbao @ 13/5
Athletic may have marvelled many English fans with their demolition of Premier League leaders Manchester United in the last round but Marcelo Bielsa will know his side are in for a potentially even sterner test against Schalke.
The Germans are third in the Bundesliga on the back of five home wins in six and boast one of Europe’s hottest marksmen in 45-goal Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
His duel with Athletic’s own in-form striker Fernando Llorente is an intriguing sub-plot and as the Basque side proved at Old Trafford, they have the away goals in them to leave the Veltins Arena still level.
Sporting Lisbon to beat Metallist Kharkiv @ 19/20
Metallist may be the least experienced of the eight quarter-finalists but they’ve been going great guns in this year’s Europa League, firing 25 goals to become the tournament’s top scorers.
The Ukrainians have used that scoring power to win five of their last six away games in Europe but their all-out attacking approach might put them into trouble against a Sporting Lisbon side who’ve won their last six in all competitions, including eliminating then-tournament favourites Manchester City in the last round.
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