European Soccer Forecast: Projected Betting Odds & Totals For Thursday’s Europa League Semifinal Matches (April 29)

European Soccer Forecast: Projected Betting Odds & Totals For Thursday’s Europa League Semifinal Matches (April 29) article feature image

Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images. Pictured: Arsenal standout Alexandre Lacazette.

The Europa League semifinal round kicks off Thursday, with spots in the final on the line. In case you missed it, here are the two semifinal matchups:

🤩 The semi-finals are 𝘀𝗲𝘁! 🤩

Who will contest the final in Gdańsk? 🏆

— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) April 15, 2021

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 Arsenal, Villarreal 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 do so 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.

Manchester United vs. Roma

Manchester United-195
Over/Under2.5 (-129 / +105)
TimeThursday | 3 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon via DraftKings.

Manchester United vs. Roma Projections

Manchester United is in the middle of a fantastic season, sitting in second place in the Premier League and on the cusp of the Europa final.

The Red Devils cruised past Granada in the quarterfinals without much of a sweat. However, even though Manchester United is in second place in England's top flight, the club is a tad overrated. The Red Devils only have the fourth-best xG differential and are fourth in expected points.

The reason for that is that they've been a bit fortunate in front of net, as they've scored 64 goals on the season, but created only 56.38 expected goals.

Defensively, Manchester United has been solid this year, allowing only 1.09 xG per match. That number has only gotten better as of late, as it has really turned up the defensive pressure during its 13-match unbeaten streak in league play, allowing only 0.87 xG per match.

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Roma has been flying high this season, as the highest-scoring team in Italy  with its average of 2.18 xG per match. The biggest difference between this season and last season is Roma has switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation, which is the same formation teams like Chelsea and RB Leipzig have adopted.

The main objective of the 3-4-2-1 is to completely overwhelm defenses by outnumbering them on the counterattack. The formation allows Roma some tactical flexibility, to adjust on the fly based on how things are going.

That has allowed I Giallorossi to dominate possession and keep opponents on their toes. The proof in the numbers, too, as Roma is averaging +0.61 xGD per 90 minutes when playing out of that formation, per Understat.

However, Roma has one big flaw. It hasn't been able to beat anyone ahead of it in the Serie A table. In 10 matches against the top-six teams in Italy, I Giallorossi are a disappointing 0-4-6 overall. You can also see it's pretty much a night-and-day difference when Roma the league's best.

Given Roma's struggles versus some of the best teams in Italy, I have a hard time backing it in the first leg, even though I am showing value on the match. For that reason, I'm going to pass on betting this contest.

Villarreal vs. Arsenal

Over/Under2.5 (+102 / -125)
TimeThursday | 3 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon via DraftKings.

Villarreal vs. Arsenal Projections

Villarreal has been nothing short of dominant in the Europa League the season, going 10-1-0 so far. However, it hasn't faced the stiffest of competition. All 11 matches have come against teams outside the top-five major leagues on the continent.

The Yellow Submarine isn't  in a great run of form coming into this game, losing three of their last four contests in Spain. The club did made quick work of Dinamo Zagreb in the quarterfinals, but Arsenal will be a new test for it.

Villarreal has a fantastic defensive record in Spain, allowing only 1.10 xG per match. Its offense is no slouch either, as it's averaging 1.59 xG per match, which is actually better than both Atlético Madrid and Sevilla in league play.

What makes this encounter so intriguing is because Villarreal's manager Unai Emery was the Arsenal manager before the club hired Mikel Arteta.

Arsenal come into the semifinals in desperate need to win the Europa League because if it doesn't, it will likely miss out on playing European competitions for the first time in 25 years.

The Gunners did get a huge boost this week, when it was announced that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Kieran Tierney all could return from injury for this important match.

💬 "They are all in contention. All of them. Including Aubameyang, Laca and Kieran. They are all in contention for the game."

🔜 #UEL

— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 28, 2021

However, Arsenal has really struggled to create chances on the domestic front this season, averaging only 1.40 xG per match. The Gunners' defense has been stout, though, conceding just 1.17 xG per match, which is the sixth-best mark in the Premier League.

Arteta typically plays out of a 4-2-3-1 formation, which is the most common setup in modern football. The formation allows Arsenal to deploy three attacking midfielders going forward, which can overwhelm opposing defenses. It has helped Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka create a ton of chances.

Arsenal put up a bit of a dud performance against Everton last Friday, losing 1-0 at Emirates Stadium, so Arteta's men need to get back to their promising form of the past few months.

I think this is going to be a tight, first-leg encounter since both teams' strength is their respective defense. Therefore, I am going to back Under 2.5 goals at -125 odds via DraftKings and would play it up to -130 odds.

Pick: Total Under 2.5 Goals (-125)

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