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Europa League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Best Bets & Model Projections for Knockout Round Playoffs (Feb. 17)

Europa League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Best Bets & Model Projections for Knockout Round Playoffs (Feb. 17) article feature image
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Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Borussia Dortmund standouts Axel Witsel, left, and Erling Haaland.

With the addition of the Europa Conference League and the reduction in the number of groups in the Europa League, soccer has birthed the Knockout Stage playoffs in latter competition.

The eight group winners are already through to the Round of 16, but each second-place finisher in their respective Europa League group will face off against a third-place club from a Champions League group in a two-leg fixture to decide who goes to the knockout stage.

Here are the matchups:

We're. Back. 😎#UEL pic.twitter.com/r6TkVzXJFO

— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) February 14, 2022

As you can see above, the two biggest matches are Barcelona facing Napoli and RB Leipzig taking on Real Sociedad.

If you’d like to read more about how I determine my projected lines and totals using an expected goals model, you can read about it here.

For the Europa League, my projections factor in UEFA Coefficients for every country represented in the competition. The projections also factor in the talent of each squad based on their total transfer value on Transfer Market.

That way, the projections can account for the strength of the domestic league each club plays in and the talent level of each club.

Europa League Playoff Projections

Best Bets

Dortmund vs. Rangers

Dortmund Odds -265
Rangers Odds +700
Draw +425
Over/Under 2.5 (-165 / +140)
Day | Time Thursday | 12:45 p.m. ET
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Offensively, Borussia Dortmund has been over-performing in the Bundesliga, scoring 57 goals off 40.8 expected goals, but I’m not sure how Rangers is going to handle their attack.

Rangers was in the same group as Lyon and Sparta Prague, but even though they finished in second place, they had a -1.2 xGDiff against those teams. Even a few weeks ago, Rangers faced Celtic in the Old Firm Derby and were thrashed, 3-0, by their biggest rival, with all three goals coming in the first half.

THREE GOALS IN THE FIRST HALF. 😳

CELTIC ARE FLYING IN THE OLD FIRM. 💥 pic.twitter.com/9aHEDJ9wG1

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 2, 2022

Rangers has some fantastic options now, because they’ve brought in Amed Diallo from Manchester United and Aaron Ramsey from Juventus on loan. Rangers is also averaging 2.2 xG per match in the Scottish Premier League, with their games averaging 3.2 xG overall.

Dortmund should be able to mimic what Celtic was able to do in the Old Firm derby, which is use an inverted fullback to overload one side and allow the wingers to make overlapping runs.

Well, Dortmund will have no problem using Raphael Guerrero and Thomas Munier in those type of roles. 

This match is bound to be incredibly open, especially if Dortmund scores first. I have 3.50 goals projected, so I love the total clearing three goals at +100 odds on the Asian Handicap and will make it my top selection.

Pick: Total Over 3 Goals (+100)

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Zenit vs. Real Betis

Zenit Odds +150
Real Betis Odds +180
Draw +245
Over/Under 2.5 (-110 / -110)
Day | Time Thursday | 12:45 p.m. ET
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Real Betis’ matches in the Europa League group stage were incredibly chaotic, featuring a whopping 24 goals scored in six matches.

That’s no surprise, because this is a team set up to play high-scoring matches. In La Liga, Real Betis’ matches are the third scoring anyone in Spain, as they’re third in xG, but 14th in xGA this season.

In fact, Real Betis’ matches domestically are averaging 2.77 xG in a league where the average xG per match is only around 2.4 overall. 

Now, the Russian Premier League has essentially been on break since Dec. 12 because it’s too cold to play there in the winter . Zenit has played friendlies here and there, but hasn’t played a real match in more than two months.

DRAMA AT THE DEATH.

Zenit's Magomed Ozdoyev just did this in the 94th minute😳 pic.twitter.com/Plx8ng1H1S

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 8, 2021

What we saw in the Champions League is Zenit is very comfortable playing whatever style the match dictates, highlighted in a 3-3 draw against Chelsea.

Zenit does have attacking talent with Malcom, Claudhino and Wendel that can give Real Betis a lot of trouble, as Zenit is averaging 2.27 xG per match in the Russian top flight.

Also, the weather isn’t going to be that bad in St. Petersburg, with the median temperature around 35 degrees. However, snow is in the forecast.

I have 3.02 goals projected for this match, so I like the total going over 2.5 goals at -110 odds.

Pick: Total Over 2.5 Goals (-110)

Porto vs. Lazio

Porto Odds +110
Lazio Odds +250
Draw +255
Over/Under 2.5 (-110 / -110)
Day | Time Thursday | 3 p.m. ET
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Porto was very good in the Champions League group stage facing teams not named Liverpool. Against AC Milan and Atlético Madrid they had a +2 xGDiff and held AC Milan to just 0.7 total xG over the two matches.

That is the same AC Milan team that just smoked their does during a 4-0 rout in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal round last week.

Now, Porto did lose its best striker Luis Diaz to Liverpool in the January transfer window. However, the club still has a very talented attacking duo up top in their 4-4-2 formation of Mehdi Taremi and Evanilson, who are both averaging more than 0.50 xG per 90 minutes.

FRANCK KESSIE MAKES IT 4!

AC MILAN ARE RUNNING RIOT. 🧨 pic.twitter.com/tqGScoaQAZ

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 9, 2022

As for Lazio, it might have the most overrated offense in Europe’s top-five leagues. The club scored 52 goals off just 35.4 xG, per fbref.com. In Italy, Lazio is 15th in shots per 90 minutes, but second in big scoring chances. Porto hardly ever allows big scoring chances, given its really defensive style of play.

Domestically, Porto has only conceded 15.1 xG in 22 matches and only eight big scoring chances. So, some of that negative regression for Lazio could come in this opening leg.

Since I have Porto projected at -122, I like the value on them at +110 odds to win the first leg and will make it my top pick.

Pick: Porto ML (+110)

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