It’s back after the break… but will Barcelona be in for a rude awakening as they drop into this tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years?
The Spanish giants are amongst the frontrunners in the Europa League outright betting as the tournament returns with its new knockout play-off stage…
We’re here with another Europa League betting preview…
Europa League Betting Predictions | Knockout Play-Offs
Here are our three games to keep an eye on this Thursday night
BARCELONA VS NAPOLI, 17:45
Napoli to nick it at Camp Nou?
Barcelona are back in the Europa League after nearly two decades away… how will they fare with the pressure of being the prized scalp as the heat rises in this tournament?
Xavi’s men have been denied the opportunity to ease their way into this competition. An unkind draw has handed Barca arguably the hardest tie they could have asked for at this stage of proceedings, with the ‘Maradona derby’ awaiting them early on Thursday night.
Visiting Napoli will arrive at Camp Nou high on confidence after picking up 13 points from the last 15 available in Serie A.
That’s form keeping the dream of a first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona years very much alive with only the Milan clubs narrowly above them at the top of the table.
The Blues will need to improve on a mediocre away record in recent times in this competition to keep their Round of 16 hopes on track, with their 4-1 group stage success away at Legia Warsaw their solitary victory in their five most recent UEL outings, but a nervy Camp Nou could be an ideal destination to help buck that trend.
Back-to-back home league wins for returning hero Xavi since mid-December have calmed Barca nerves for now after the former Spanish international initially struggled to fix the home discomforts that had become routine under Ronald Koeman.
The 45-year-old engineered his finest win as Barca manager to date in their last home outing prior to this fixture, with Barca brushing defending champions Atlético Madrid aside courtesy of an energetic first-half-display.
He may need a similarly fast start from his charges against their wily opponents from Naples, given Luciano Spalletti’s men have also kept three clean sheets in five on their travels this winter.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND VS RANGERS
Rangers in for a rollercoaster ride at Westfalenstadion?
It’s probably not the clash most Rangers fans will have been keeping their fingers crossed for ahead of the draw last December, but the Scottish Premiership champions can travel to North Rhine-Westphalia with genuine hope of ensuring this tie remains in the balance when they take it back to Ibrox.
Erling Haaland’s extraordinary firepower remains the ace card up Dortmund’s sleeve. The Norwegian’s insatiable goalscoring form – 23 in 20 games so far this campaign – ensures they start this phase as 6/1 favourites to win the tournament, but the German giants aren’t quite as blessed at the back.
A chronically leaky defence has once again cost BVB any realistic hope of a title shot, with their 36 goals conceded on a par with many sides struggling towards the lower reaches of the Bundesliga table.
Marco Rose’s inability to solve those problems at the back was also in evidence in their failed Champions League campaign, where crushing defeats to Ajax (twice) and away at Sporting saw them bow out before the Christmas decorations came down.
Given their recent improvement in form domestically after a shaky start to the year, the Gers could have every opportunity of providing a scare at Westfalenstadion if the notably cautious Giovanni van Bronckhorst can resist the temptation to go safety first against a side that don’t need a second invitation to score.
SEVILLA VS DINAMO ZAGREB
Sevilla to shine back in their favourite competition?
Julen Lopetegui has won plenty of plaudits for his sustained body of work with Sevilla since 2019, with the 55-year-old successfully redeeming himself in the fallout of his exit from the Spanish national team and subsequent ill-fated move to Real Madrid.
Under his guidance, Sevilla have already added yet another Europa League title to their trophy cabinet (beating Inter 3-2 in the 2020 final) whilst he’s also returned Los Nervionenses to the highest reaches of the Spanish Primera table this season, as the only side looking remotely capable of keeping Real Madrid honest in the title race this term.
However, he now has something to prove back in the competition with a poor Champions League showing the one blot in his copybook this campaign. Lopetegui’s side crashed out arguably the gentlest of groups in this year’s competition picking up just one win in their six UCL outings.
A spirited Dinamo Zagreb stand in their way of a place in the Round of 16, having sneaked home second behind West Ham in Group H after a 1-0 win at the already-qualified Hammers in the final round of group games.
That added to some at times eye-catching away form in European competition this season. The Croatians have won five times on their travels in either the Champions League or Europa League this season, with their UCL qualification hopes ultimately coming unstuck at surprise first-timers Sheriff.
However, a showcase win at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium surely requires another step up.
Lille are the only team that have managed to emerge from Andalucia victorious this season – in the Champions League back in November – but home has otherwise been a fortress for Lopetegui’s charges.
Sevilla saw their unbeaten run on home soil stretch to 14 Primera games at the weekend as they brushed Elche aside 2-0.
Europa League Correct Score Predictions
Here are our predictions for the latest round of knockout matches…
BARCELONA 0-1 NAPOLI
BORUSSIA DORTMUND 4-2 RANGERS
SHERIFF TIRASPOL 1-2 SPORTING BRAGA
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG 1-1 REAL BETIS
ATALANTA 4-1 OLYMPIAKOS
FC PORTO 1-0 LAZIO
RB LEIPZIG 2-2 REAL SOCIEDAD
SEVILLA 3-1 DINAMO ZAGREB
Europa League Outright Betting
🏆 Who wins the 2021/22 Europa League?
Check the latest Europa League odds with Marathonbet as teams battle to reach the final in Seville.
Odds correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.