Europa League actions continue on Thursday, and following the excitement provided to fans by the UEFA Champions League over the last two days, there’s excitement in the air. This is one of the best and busiest times of year to be a sports lover, with many major fixtures on the schedule. As well as this week’s Champions League and Europa League ties, next week’s Cheltenham Festival provides five days of action-packed thoroughbred horse racing from England. It’s all happening, and this site will keep you up to speed with the latest football predictions. We aim to arm our readers with the info needed to make smart predictions and bets on the teams they love the most.
This page focuses on Thursday’s main event as Manchester United hosts Real Betis in the Europa League Round of 16 first legs. The Red Devils enjoy the home advantage for this clash and hope to make it count. They plan to win in front of their own fans and get back on track following the demolition and embarrassment suffered at Anfield against Liverpool in the Premier League last time out. This week, the home dressing room has been forced into frank and honest conversations about what went wrong on Merseyside. But the great thing about football is there’s always another game just around the corner and a chance to make amends.
Man Utd is the pundits’ pick to secure a crucial first-leg victory on Thursday at Old Trafford, taking the lead to Spain for the second game. That’s easier said than done, of course, but after eliminating La Liga leaders Barcelona in the previous round, local supporters have confidence. The head-to-head stats show these teams have never met in competitive action, meaning they can secure a first-leg lead and cement a space in the history books. Which team will get off to the perfect start? Keep reading to find out.
A low point for United
This year, Manchester United has performed well in the English Premier League and Europa League. They have a new lease of life under the coaching staff and are quietly going about their business, winning the EFL Cup, slowly climbing the Premier League, and making their way through this tournament without encountering too much fuss along the way. That turnaround has been impressive to watch, and it’s thought Man Utd, if they continue to improve, maybe a contender for the EPL trophy next season. Winning the league trophy looks like a bridge too far this season.
Things were going swimmingly at the Theatre of Dreams until they ran into last season’s Premier League and Champions League runners-up, Liverpool, and their experienced boss Jurgen Klopp. The Reds haven’t been anywhere near their best this term, but they shouldn’t ever be overlooked or taken for granted. Liverpool reminded us of that against Man Utd at Anfield on Sunday when winning 7-0 in one of the most incredible matches of the season. Liverpool led 1-0 at half-time before Man Utd collapsed, leaking six goals in the second 45. Everyone with a connection to Liverpool was left in a state of shock.
Fans did have more to shout about when they were last in Europa League action, eliminated Barcelona over two legs. The tie started at the Camp Nou, where the two giants of European football served up a thrilling contest that ended in a 2-2 draw. With no away goal rule this season, that meant there was still all to play for in the return match to England. It was another hard-fought contest, and Barca scored first through Lewandowski before goals from Fred and Antony won the game and the tie.
Betis arrive in fine form
Teams from La Liga have the best record of winning the Europa League, and Real Betis will hope they are the latest in a long line of Spanish teams to lift the trophy. They started as well as could be expected, winning Group C ahead of runners-up Roma with stats of five wins and one draw, scoring a dozen goals while conceding just four. They weren’t the top pick to progress as pool winners, but they did it with six points to spare, qualifying for the knockout stages with a nine-point cushion over third place.
The visitors have been equally impressive in La Liga and can be found sitting in fifth place with a realistic chance of making it into next season’s Champions League. To achieve that, they’ll require a top-four finish which is three points away at this stage, Real Sociedad standing as the gatekeepers to the prizes. Having won three and drawn one of their last four league matches, Real Betis fans will feel their team has a strong chance of making it to UEFA’s cream of the crop comel late summer.
Real Betis warmed up for their trip to England with a goalless home draw against Real Madrid on Sunday. That was the perfect preparation as it tested the defence in a similar way it will be pressed on Thursday in Manchester. The backline stood firm against an onslaught from last season’s Champions League and La Liga winners, passing the test with flying colors. Another strong showing will be required at Old Trafford from 20:00 GMT.
Man Utd v Real Betis prediction
Manchester United hold the home advantage and will believe they’re good enough to beat Real Betis at the same venue where they eliminated Barcelona recently. With the pain of that 7-0 drubbing fresh in their minds, the Red Devils will want to bounce back in style. The only way to help heal Sunday’s wounds for fans is to kill this tie off at the earliest opportunity by winning well at home.
Europa League odds
The pre-match betting odds offered by 22Bet on this game have Man Utd at 1.4 with Real Betis at 7.5 and the draw 4.82.
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