Europa League Group D Round-Up – 08/12/16
Europa League Group D Round-Up – 08/12/16
AZ v Zenit
Eredivise side AZ Alkmaar welcome Zenit to the AFAS Stadion with qualification still up for grabs. John van den Brom’s men come into the final match day second in Group D and they know if they can better Dundalk and Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s result in the groups other game, then they’ll go through to the round of 32. When the draw was completed back in August, AZ were expected by many to qualify behind Zenit but things haven’t gone to plan for the red and whites so far – with them picking up just five points from five games.
Alkmaar supporters have seen their side win just once so far this tournament which didn’t come until their last outing when they took on Dundalk. It was a big test of their credentials in tough conditions at Oriel Park but they managed to edge it 1-0 courtesy of an early Wout Weghorst goal. That game extended their unbeaten run and after winning and drawing their next two domestic fixtures, that run currently stands at eight games. They’ll be full of confidence coming into this clash but in facing Zenit they take on the groups runaway winners who’re yet to drop a point.
Mircea Lucescu’s Zenit arrive in Alkmaar with top spot and qualification sealed and they’ve been fantastic so far. The Russian Premier League outfit have dealt with the disappointment of missing out on the Champions League in rampant style and they’ve been a class above all their opponents. They’ve picked up fifteen points from a possible fifteen, scoring a huge fifteen goals in the process. And despite their fate in the competition being sealed, they certainly won’t want to take their foot off the gas.
Lucescu is expected to ring a few changes here to rest some of his key players but with the sheer amount of strength in depth he possesses it’s not possible for him to put out a weakened side. Their star performer so far has been Brazilian forward Guiliano, he’s scored and assisted five goals in as many games and he’s struck up a potent partnership in attack with Aleksandr Kokorin. The Russian international pace and power makes him such a threat and with Guiliano expected to start from the bench, we’re expecting him to relish leading the line as he looks to guide his side to a 100% win rate.
Zenit to win & BTTS: (Best Priced at 5/1 at bet365) – BET HERE
Aleksandr Kokorin to score anytime: (Best Priced at 14/5 at William Hill) – BET HERE
Maccabi Tel-Aviv v Dundalk
Group D’s other game takes part in Israel, with Maccabi Tel-Aviv hosting Dundalk at the Netanya Stadium. It’s a huge game for both of these sides with qualification for the round of 32 going right down to the wire. They each come into this clash locked on four points and they need a favour from Zenit in the groups other game if one of them is to go through. Maccabi Tel-Aviv will feel that they have an excellent opportunity to sneak into the top two with home advantage. They have plenty of experience in their side with the likes of Tal Ben Haim and Yossi Benayoun in their side and we can see them being key here.
Maccabi fans are yet to see their side win on home soil in this seasons competition however, their sole win came away in Alkmaar on what was a famous evening for the club. Goals from Ezequiel Scarione and Eyal Golasa saw them come out 2-1 winners in a tight game on match day three but they’ve failed to back it up. A 0-0 draw with AZ was followed by a 2-0 defeat in Russia to Zenit and it’s left them needing a result here and a favour else where. Shota Arveladze’s men have won just one of their last eight in all competitions and Dundalk certainly won’t be pushovers.
Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk have captured the imagination of just about everyone with their run in this seasons Europa League. The Airtricity League champions have proven that they’re not just their to make up the numbers by putting in some fantastic performances and getting results in games they weren’t expected to. They have one of the smallest budgets in the competition and it’s a testament to Kenny that they’re still involved in the competition at this stage. Their domestic season finished at the end of October, so with this tournament their sole focus they can put everything into it.
Dundalk kicked off the tournament in frantic fashion. They began by picking up a point against AZ on match day one on a drama filled evening. After going behind on the hour mark and then going down to ten men, they showed just strong their character and team spirit is by scoring an 89th minute equaliser through Ciaran Kilduff to seal a draw in their first ever Europa League game. They then followed it up with their sole win of the tournament so far which came against their opponents here on match day two. Kilduff was again the hero, netting with just eighteen minutes left on the clock but things haven’t gone to plan since – losing their last three. They know a score draw can see them go through if Zenit win in the groups other game and we think they have enough about them to grab the result they need.
Match to be drawn: (Best Priced at 7/2 at betway) – BET HERE
BTTS: (Best Priced at 1/1 at BetBright) – BET HERE
Check out our other Europa League Betting Previews HERE
See how Dundalk defeated Maccabi Tel-Aviv back on match day two here: