The competition is really hotting up now in the Europa League, and the remaining teams will be seeking the best possible result in these first leg ties in the round of 16. It’s the home teams I’m interested in here, and today’s banker treble looks a very good bet on paper.
Manchester United v Athletic Bilbao 8.05 Channel 5
You can’t fail to be impressed with the way Manchester United have equipped themselves this season. Their squad appears far weaker than years gone by, but they pull together as a team fantastically well, and should be able to beat Atheltic Bilbao tonight.
Although they lost 2-1 to Ajax at Old Trafford in the 2nd leg of the previous round, they were always comfortable after winning 2-0 in Amsterdam the week before.
United will look again to put the tie beyond the reach of their opponents in the first leg, as Bilbao have been magnificent at home this season domestically.
Bilbao’s away form is far weaker, as road defeats in this tournament against PSG and Lokomotiv Moscow have already proved.
Valencia v PSV Eindhoven 8.05pm ESPN
PSV only know how to play attacking football, and that will suit Valencia down to the ground.
The Dutch outfit concede an average of 1.5 away goals per game in their domestic league, and could be punished at the Mestalla.
Valencia are undefeated at home in European competition this term; beating Leverkusen(3-1) and Genk(7-0) as well as holding Chelsea to a draw in the Champions League, and beating Stoke City(1-0) in the previous round of this tournament.
The loyal home crowd will play their part, and Valencia shouldn’t have too many problems collecting a win here.
Athletico Madrid v Besiktas 6.00pm
Besiktas’ season is falling apart domestically, and I really can’t see them getting anything in Madrid against Athletico.
The smaller Madrid club have done very well at the Vicente Calderon this season, losing just twice (Betis and Barcelona) and keeping 6 clean sheets in their 12 games at home.
Besiktas are on a run of 3 straight defeats in all competitions, and things don’t look particularly good for them in the short term.
Athletico will know that they face a tough 2nd leg in Turkey, and should secure a decent victory tonight in preparation for the return leg.
Manchester United 8/15
Athletico Madrid 4/11