Europa League Semifinal Betting Preview: First Leg Values

Europa League Semifinal Betting Preview: First Leg Values article feature image
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The 2018 Europa League Semifinal features clubs from four different nations (England, Spain, France and Austria) and will take place over the course of two legs, April 26th and May 3rd.

Atlético Madrid vs. Arsenal
Marseille vs. Salzburg

Odds to advance to the final on May 16th:

Atlético Madrid and Marseille opened as the favorites to meet in the final. Odds haven’t changed much on Marseille getting there, but bettors love Atlético Madrid, moving them up to -210 in their two-legged matchup over Arsenal.

Atlético Madrid are also the clear favorites to win the Europa League title heading into the semifinal matches. Salzburg have made quite a run and were available at +6000 just six weeks ago, but remain the loftiest dogs to hoist the trophy:

While it’s true that Atlético Madrid have the best odds to advance (-210) and lift the trophy (+105), they play the opening leg at Arsenal, a match in which they’re actually the underdogs. It may be a wiser decision for bettors who like Atlético Madrid to just back them in the opening leg at the Emirates Stadium instead of dealing with either futures bet. If Atlético happen to lose the opening leg, you’ll be able to find much better prices than -210 to advance and +105 to win the title.

After analyzing both opening legs and the betting market surrounding them, we’ve picked out two value plays for Thursday’s matches.

First Leg Matchups

Atlético Madrid at Arsenal (Thursday, 3:05 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Arsenal +163, Atlético +190, Draw +234

Atlético Madrid and Arsenal both rested some key players over the weekend to prepare for their crucial semifinal opening leg Thursday night in London. Atlético may be without forward Diego Costa and will definitely be missing Juanfran on the right side of the defense, but are mostly healthy otherwise. Arsenal will be without Mohamed Elneny in the center of their midfield/defense, but playmaker Mesut Ozil looks to be trending toward playing.

Arsenal have had no problems scoring at home, netting at least three goals in six straight at the Emirates (all wins). Atlético, on the other hand, haven’t won in their last four road matches, including shutouts in back-to-back games.

Arsenal certainly give up their share of goals through defensive lapses, so it will be a good battle to see if Atlético can score against a prone Gunners side. Atlético Madrid are always strong defensively, but this may be one of their toughest challenges this season to stop a rolling Arsenal squad.

The market clearly views Atlético Madrid as the title favorites, but the opening leg match at Arsenal will be difficult. I don’t put a whole lot of stock into the “Arsenal want to win for Arsene Wenger” theory, but it will definitely improve a usually mild crowd at the Emirates. The Gunners have finished recent seasons strongly (minus Champions League), and they find ease going forward offensively while playing on their own pitch. While I don’t think they’ll keep a clean sheet, I love the value on Arsenal +163 to win the opening leg.

Salzburg at Marseille (Thursday, 3:05 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Marseille -155, Salzburg +444, Draw +328

Salzburg come into this match fully healthy and have lost just one match in their last 17. They’ve been scoring at ease with multiple goals in five of their last six games, but they’re sizable underdogs to win the opening leg in France at +444 odds. These teams have already met twice in the Europa League group stage this season with Salzburg winning, 1-0, at home, and earning a 0-0 draw on the road.

Marseille will be without two players, Hiroki Sakai (defender/midfielder) and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. They will have their full attacking core though, with the likes of Dimitri Payet, Florin Thauvin, Lucas Ocampos, Nabil Fekir and Kostas Mitroglou. Marseille scored five goals in back-to-back home wins after beating Lille, 5-1, in Ligue 1 action on Saturday, and have been dominant at home this year (one loss in last 21 matches).

Marseille opened -128 at Pinnacle 12 days ago, and they’re now at -155 at the prominent offshore sportsbook. As always, you want to find the best line possible — the low end of the market lists them at -150 while some books have them as high as -165.

Public bettors have poured in on Marseille with more than 75% of tickets across the market via Sports Insights’ contributing offshore sportsbooks. I think contrarian bettors can find some real value now on Salzburg +0.5 goals (+138), especially considering they had the upper edge in terms of head-to-head meetings this year.

Cover photo features Atlético Madrid striker Fernando Torres