Europa League tips, 19th April 2012

Atletico Madrid v Valencia, 20:05

You’d think, seeing as Valencia are third in the Spanish table, that they’d be a strong favourite for this, but when you realise they are a massive 29 points back on second placed Barcelona it becomes more clear that third in the BBVA isn’t all that. Atletico have a fair few players who have gone a long way in European competition, and will very much fancy their chances of going to the final of this tournament, which would certainly please their supporters and big-spending owners.

Atletico Madrid will have to make do without influential defender Diego Godin for the first leg as the Uruguayan will miss the match through suspension, while club captain Antonio Lopez and Silvio Pereira are doubts. Valencia’s Hedwiges Maduro and Sergio Canales are unlikely to be fit to make this match. Victor Ruiz is thought to be fit enough to feature, Ricardo Costa may come in at right back as Antonio Barragan is suspended, and Ever Banega is out for the season after. Falcao, of Madrid, is 4/1 with BetFred to open the scoring, and he certainly has the skill to trouble any defence.


Sporting v Athletic Bilbao, 20:05

These two have already shown the best of English football how to play in Europe, and their meeting will be a really high-class affair. Over the coming few months Bilbao are going to struggle to hold on to some of their best young players but right at this moment they are a joy to watch and the kind of side that combines near-telepathic understanding and excellent desire to produce a very good end result. The Portuguese giants have seen Benfica and Porto steal a march on them in recent times, and will want to put the famous green-and-white hoops back into a major final.

Sporting’s Bruno Pereirinha and Oguchi Onyewu will most likely not feature, Jeffren Suarez is in doubt for the match because of fitness problems, while Fito Rinaudo and Alberto Rodriguez have been ruled out. Sporting coach Ricardo Sa Pinto will also not be able to count on Elias, who is ineligible. Athletic’s young charger Iker Muniain is fit, but although Carlos Gurpegui flew with the rest of the team Lisbon after a six-month absence following a knee ligament injury, but he is expected to be left out of the match squad, and Javi Martinez misses out due to suspension. The 7/2 with Bet365 on a home win by a 1-goal margin seems fair, but I like Bilbao over two legs.

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