Europa League Group J Round-Up – 08/12/16
Europa League Group J Round-Up – 08/12/16
PAOK v Slovan Liberec
Vladimir Ivic’s PAOK will be looking to make one last push for the top two spots in the group on Thursday, as their time in Group J comes to an end with a fixture against Slovan Liberec at the Toumba Stadium. Top place in the group is Italian side Fiorentina, which was expected before games started being played, but second place was always likely to be fought between Qarabag and PAOK. It’s only a small margin which now separate second and third, and plenty could still happen in these two remaining games, but as PAOK are third, it’s them that will miss out progressing in the competition if nothing changes.
PAOK’s first game in Group J saw them impressively holding Fiorentina to a 0-0 draw. They then took three points against Thursday’s opposition Slovan Liberec, before being upsettingly defeated by Qarabag away from home. Their last game was surely their best, going 2-0 ahead of Fiorentina within the first half an hour through goals from Yevhen Shakhov and Djalma Campos. The Italian side were able to equalise by the 50th minute but were still defeated by PAOK when Garry Rodrigues netted in stoppage time.
Czech First League side Slovan Liberec have been fighting at times to get something from their group, but have been proven on several occasions that they are lacking the sort of quality that their opposition posses. Technically, they could still finish third or second if they beat PAOK by a reasonable deficit, it’s just massively unlikely, especially when taking their previous results into context. Their first game against Qarabag had a great result, scoring through Jan Sykora in the opening minute and ending up in front of the side by 68th minute, when former Liverpool striker Milan Baros scored to put his side ahead after they were level for some time.
They continued to battle, looking confident and excitable by the realistic possibility that they could finish the game with three points. It looked likely to happen before Qarabag captain Rashad Sadygov netted in stoppage time to take a point. Many expected that to be the best Liberec had to offer before they played Qarabag again in their most recent game and took three points. Nikolay Komlichenko netted a brace, helped by an early Egon Vuch goal, to win over the second place side, displaying a better showing from the Czech side.
PAOK to win (Best priced at 9/20 on BetWay) – BET HERE
Over 2.5 goals (Best priced at 3/4 on BetBright) – BET HERE
Qarabag v Fiorentina
Paulo Sousa’s Fiorentina will be hoping to continue their dominance at the top of Group J on Thursday, as they complete the group fixtures with a game against Gurban Gurbanov’s Qarabag at the Azersun Arena. The home advantage will be in Qarabag’s favour as they still stand a chance of pushing the Italian side off their pedestal. Their first game wasn’t the best start, as they were hold to a 2-2 draw with Slovan Liberec, who were always tipped to be the weakest side in the group. They also suffered their worst defeat to Fiorentina, losing by a devastating five goals to nil.
After winning two games consecutively against PAOK, Gurban Gurbanov was hopeful that an away fixture at Slovan Liberec would be an even easier three points. It was far from it though, as Egon Vuch scored in the opening eleven minutes. Nikolay Komlichenko, who is currently on loan from Russian Premier League side Krasnodar, scored a crucial brace to beat the away side. Qarabag will be full of determination coming into this game though, with aspirations of still toppling their Italian opposition.
Fiorentina are almost certain to finish as champions of the group, but both Qarabag and PAOK are three points away, meaning that they could easily slip if they fail to beat the Azerbaijani team. Their performances have been impressive though, scoring a whopping fifteen goals in five games and only conceding five times. Nikola Kalinic has been especially important in their European domination, netting four times and standing as the joint-third top scorer in the entire competition. Former West Ham attacker Mauro Zarate has also been influential, helping the side to some important attacking opportunities.
Their first game was a 0-0 draw to PAOK, with fans of the side doubting how far they can push in the competition. They made some changes to their playing mentality immediately after though, winning by an incredible five goals to nil against Thursday’s opposition Qarabag in their next fixture. Since then, they won a further two games before being narrowly defeated by PAOK, who led for most of the game and netted in stoppage time after Fiorentina had at one stage made up the deficit.
Fiorentina to win (Best priced at 6/4 on BetWay) – BET HERE
Nikola Kalinic to score anytime (Best priced at 13/8 on SkyBet) – BET HERE
Check out our other Europa League Betting Previews HERE
Watch highlights from PAOK’s shock victory over Fiorentina here: