The second phase of West Ham’s pilgrimage to the Europa League group stage gets underway this evening, with Maltese falcons Birkirkara due in east London for the first-leg of their second preliminary round clash.
Much like the Andorran minnows Slaven Bilic’s side saw off before them, the bookies don’t think much of tonight’s visitors, going 17/1 about an away win next to the 1/25 favouring the hosts.
A 21/2-rated draw completes a match-betting smorgasbord bereft of good value, but those seeking a profitable punt that stands a real chance of landing need only avert their eyes in the direction of the both teams to score market.
Here there’s a slightly-longer-than 6/4 to be had about both parties finding the net.
The prospects of this wager landing appear bleak on the surface; West Ham are certain to strike, but how on earth will their small-fry adversaries do the same against opposition so superior?
Well, Birkirkara boast a veteran Italian striker with double-figure international caps and a host of elite Serie A establishments decorating his CV…that’s how.
Fabrizio Miccoli is the player in question who, at 36, now dons the number ten shirt for Malta’s FA Trophy winners.
A product of Milan’s academy, Miccoli represented Juventus and Fiorentina in the Kingdom of Calcio, before establishing himself as something of a goal fiend with Sicilian side Palermo.
Having spent two seasons on loan at Benfica on top of this, an occasion such as this is one the ten-cap Azzurri ace is well accustomed to.
The Portuguese outfit are just one of four teams he has represented in European competitions, with further continental experience garnered at Juve, Palermo and Perugia.
His record across both the Champions and Europa League currently stands at ten goals scored from 32 appearances, the most recent registration coming in the 3-1 toppling of Armenian outfit Ulisses in the previous round.
Pre-season rustiness didn’t prevent Miccoli from rustling the net last time out and, with two games of sharpness under his belt, his inclusion in the Birkirkara line up at the Boleyn Ground makes the both teams to bag bet worth entertaining.