European Soccer Forecast: Projected Betting Odds, Totals For Thursday’s Europa League Round of 16 Matches (March 18)
Peter Powell/PA Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes.
Europa League is back in action Thursday, with the Round of 16 second-leg matches kicking off and places in the quarterfinals on the line.
Here is where we stand after the first leg of the two-game sets:
⏰ RESULTS ⏰
ℹ️ Round of 16, first legs
Best performance? 🧐#UEL
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) March 11, 2021
It was pretty much all chalk in the first leg, as the heavy favorites gained big advantages heading into the second leg, which doesn't leave a lot of intrigue for these knockout-stage games. However, that still doesn't mean there aren't betting opportunities for us to profit on.
There is still a ton on the line for everyone left in the competition, because the title winner earns a spot in Champions League next season. So, for teams like Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Granada and Roma, who are currently outside the top four in their respective domestic leagues, it gives them another shot at qualifying for the prestigious European showcase next season.
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. The projections also take into consideration the talent of each squad based on their total transfer value on TransferMarkt.
That way, the projections can account for the strength of the domestic league each club plays in and the talent level of each team.
Round of 16 Projected Odds & Totals
- AC Milan: Mario Mandzukic (ST) is questionable to play against Manchester United. Alessio Romagnoli (CB) is out.
- Ajax: Daley Blind (CB), Jurrien Timber (CB), and Noussair Mazraoui (RB) are out against Young Boys.
- Arsenal: Bukayo Saka (LM) is out against Olympiacos.
- Granada: Dimitri Foulquier (RB) is out against Molde.
- Manchester United: Anthony Martial (ST) is questionable to play against AC Milan.
- Molde: Ola Brynhildsen (LM) is out against Granada.
- Rangers: Ryan Jack (CM) is out against Slavia Prague. James Tavernier (RB) is out.
- Roma: Chris Smalling (CB), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (CAM), and Jordan Vertout (CM) are out against Shakhtar.
- Slavia Prague: David Zima (CB) and David Hovorka (CB) are out against Rangers.
- Tottenham: Son Heung-min (LW), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (CM), and Giovanni Lo Celsco (CM) are out against Dinamo Zagreb.
- Young Boys: Michel Aebischer (CM) is out against Ajax.
I cannot stress this enough: before placing a bet, you have to know what happened in the first leg.
For example, some teams who gained huge opening-leg advantages might rest some key players or play more defensive if all they need is a draw to move into the next round.
Whatever club has the highest number of total aggregate goals between two legs moves onto the quarterfinal round. If the two clubs are tied, whomever has more away goals moves on.
Betting Analysis & Picks
Young Boys vs. Ajax (3 p.m. ET)
Ajax delivered the knockout punch in the first leg, earning a 3-0 victory. However, don't count on the Swiss champions rolling over and accepting defeat, because they can score goals in bunches.
In their Round of 32 matchup with Bayer Leverkusen, Young Boys scored six goals over the two legs, and averages 2.17 xGF per match in the Swiss Super League this season.
I'm not going to lie. Ajax completely dominated the first leg and didn't even let Young Boys sniff the opposing net.
(Map via infogol)
I do think the second leg is going to be a completely open game, though, with chances at both ends of the pitch. Young Boys has to play ultra-aggressive going forward, which will generate a lot of opportunities for Ajax, which is averaging a whopping 2.57 xG in the Eredivisie this season.
More importantly, three of Ajax's starting defenders are going to miss this match due to injury, so Young Boys should have more chances than they did in the first leg.
I have 3.79 goals projected for this match, so I think there is some value on the total going over three goals at -121 odds via DraftKings.
Pick: Total Over 3 Goals (-121)
Slavia Prague vs. Rangers (3 p.m. ET)
Rangers and Slavia Prague finished with a 1-1 draw in the first leg, and it was a classic tale of why expected goals are such an important metric to look at.
If you check out the shots and possession stats, you would think Slavia Prague dominated the match and should have walked away with the home win.
(Stats via LiveScore)
That's where you'd be wrong, because although Slavia Prague outshot and out-possessed Rangers, it didn't create any high-quality chances with all of those looks at goal.
On the flip side, even though Rangers only had five total shots in the game, they created two big chances in front of net, which allowed them to win the expected-goals battle.
(Map via infogol)
Rangers have been running rampant all over their Scotland foes and Europa League opponents, averaging 2.00 xG per match and conceding just 0.77 xG per outing along the way. In fact, Steven Gerrard's men haven't lost a match this season, going 34-7-0 (W-D-L) during their amazing run.
All Rangers needs is a draw from this match and they'll be moving on to the quarterfinals, but that's not what Gerrard's players are going to do. Rangers constantly try to get forward as much as possible, so I think they'll try and put this to bed early.
I have Rangers projected at -111, so I think there is plenty of value on their moneyline of +132 at DraftKings in this match.
Pick: Rangers ML (+132)