Tuesday, October 31, 2017

In Praise of Soccer’s Jack-of-All-Trades, Now Making a Comeback

Soccer
In Praise of Soccer’s Jack-of-All-Trades, Now Making a Comeback
In an era of bigger squads and multimillion-dollar specialists, Champions League managers are rediscovering the value of a pro who can play multiple positions.

Celtic v Bayern Munich: Champions League – live!

Football | The Guardian
Celtic v Bayern Munich: Champions League – live!
Champions League Group B updates from Celtic Park
Roma v Chelsea – live! | Manchester United v Benfica – live! Live scores: all the goals from around Europe
Email niall.mcveigh@theguardian.com or tweet @niallmcveigh

9.15pm GMT

72 mins: Celtic are turning up the heat, Tierney powering a cross to Forrest, who lifts it first time back across goal. Dembele, who has been kept out of this second half, can’t get to it.

9.13pm GMT

71 mins: James Forrest, Celtic’s best player tonight, fires a snap shot at goal that’s deflected behind, much to Ulreich’s relief. Armstrong’s corner drifts out of play, which is frankly unforgivable at this point.

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SOS call for Griezmann

English // marca
SOS call for Griezmann
SOS call for Griezmann

Football transfer rumours: Isco to Manchester City from Real Madrid?

Football | The Guardian
Football transfer rumours: Isco to Manchester City from Real Madrid?

Today’s gossip has been slow-cooked so that it melts in the mouth

Pep Guardiola is determined to make his Manchester City midfield the busiest creative offering since Jackson Pollock’s Convergence in 1952. To do so he’ll try to steal away Isco from Real Madrid using the power of his personality (and his club’s vast reservoir of Abu Dhabi cash, of course). Apparently, he’s on Guardiola’s ‘top-five’ footballers list, which presumably he has stuck on his fridge door at home. Isco recently signed a new contract at the Bernabéu until 2022 but we all know that means bugger all these days.

Related: Álvaro Morata denies he is unsettled as Chelsea prepare to face Roma

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Monday, October 30, 2017

MARCA's Eye on LaLiga: Unrest at Real

English // marca
MARCA's Eye on LaLiga: Unrest at Real
MARCA's Eye on LaLiga: Unrest at Real

A Spotlight-Averse Striker Can’t Seem to Stay Out of It

Soccer
A Spotlight-Averse Striker Can’t Seem to Stay Out of It
Bradley Wright-Phillips is a two-time M.L.S. scoring champion but insists he would prefer it if he could “score goals and nobody saw or even spoke about it.”

Cologne ordered to pay compensation to Arsenal

English // marca
Cologne ordered to pay compensation to Arsenal
Cologne ordered to pay compensation to Arsenal

Patrick Vieira interview: 'I am doing what I love and I am where I want to be'

Football | The Guardian
Patrick Vieira interview: 'I am doing what I love and I am where I want to be'

The New York City FC coach is preparing to lead his team in the MLS playoffs – and says he is not considering a return to Europe just yet


Patrick Vieira is determined to focus on the here and now – but it appears an almost Sisyphean task given that he is constantly asked where his future lies. Barely a week goes by when the New York City FC head coach is not linked with a vacancy either in Europe or the United States.

Even before Bruce Arena resigned after failing to lead USA to next summer’s World Cup finals, Vieira was touted as a possible replacement, leading the Frenchman to issue to a quick and firm denial regarding his interest in the position. This came soon after Vieira revealed he had tentative talks with Ligue 1 side St Etienne in the summer. The rumours and speculation will only increase if Vieira leads NYC FC to the MLS Cup this year, in just his second season as a professional head coach.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mignolet: Liverpool back on the right path ahead of Maribor clash

English // marca
Mignolet: Liverpool back on the right path ahead of Maribor clash
Mignolet: Liverpool back on the right path ahead of Maribor clash

David Unsworth left wondering what he’s got himself into as Everton caretaker | Sachin Nakrani

Football | The Guardian
David Unsworth left wondering what he’s got himself into as Everton caretaker | Sachin Nakrani
The sight of the away end emptying long before the final whistle was blown in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester City told its own story

David Unsworth spent the majority of this match standing on the edge of his technical area. Occasionally he instructed his players to do something, while there were other moments when he could be seen encouraging those in white and grey with a firm clap. But more often than not he simply stood there, staring forward and perhaps wondering what on earth he has got himself into.

Related: Leicester City 2-0 Everton: Premier League – as it happened

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Lewis Hamilton flies over Mexico City in a helicopter... to avoid the traffic!

English // marca
Lewis Hamilton flies over Mexico City in a helicopter... to avoid the traffic!
Lewis Hamilton flies over Mexico City in a helicopter... to avoid the traffic!

Kevin Nolan: ‘Young English managers have to believe there’s still room for us at the top’

Football | The Guardian
Kevin Nolan: ‘Young English managers have to believe there’s still room for us at the top’
The former West Ham midfielder discusses how he has transformed Notts County as player-manager, why he is happy to be likened to Sam Allardyce and his Champions League ambitions

It is a sign of Notts County’s recent transformation that their self-assured manager cannot get into his own team. At 35, Kevin Nolan is younger than some of his squad members but the former Premier League midfielder, who is registered to play, knows the side sitting top of League Two are doing pretty well without him. “At the minute I’m not in physical condition to play, that’s my excuse, but I don’t think I’d get in the team even if I was,” he says with a grin.

Sitting in his office, Nolan reflects on a remarkable year. Notts County were in a state of “intensive care” according to the owner, Alan Hardy, when he bought the club in January. They were in serious debt, under a transfer embargo and in danger of slipping out of the Football League for the first time, having lost 10 league games in a row. Hardy’s first move was to appoint the inexperienced Nolan; he wanted an instant impact and he certainly got one.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Joshua stops Takam in 10th to retain heavyweight crowns

English // marca
Joshua stops Takam in 10th to retain heavyweight crowns
Joshua stops Takam in 10th to retain heavyweight crowns

Real Madrid arrive peacefully in Girona

English // marca
Real Madrid arrive peacefully in Girona
Real Madrid arrive peacefully in Girona

Liverpool v Huddersfield, West Brom v Man City, Arsenal v Swansea – live!

Football | The Guardian
Liverpool v Huddersfield, West Brom v Man City, Arsenal v Swansea – live!
Minute-by-minute updates from the Saturday 3pm kick-offsEngland v Spain: Under-17 World Cup final - live!Live scores: all the goals from around the UK and EuropeSend your thoughts to Rob via rob.smyth@theguardian.com

3.43pm BST

Jonas Lossl saves Mohamed Salah’s penalty, and Jordan Henderson hits the post from the rebound!

3.41pm BST

ITUEYMI, England are in a World Cup final today.

Related: England v Spain: Under-17 World Cup final — live!

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Girona-Real Madrid: It's just another match

English // marca
Girona-Real Madrid: It's just another match
Girona-Real Madrid: It's just another match

Friday, October 27, 2017

Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp backs Simon Mignolet but says pressure is mounting

Football | The Guardian
Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp backs Simon Mignolet but says pressure is mounting
• Goalkeeper will keep his place against Huddersfield Town
• Klopp: ‘I don’t think for a second about changing this position’

Jürgen Klopp has confirmed Simon Mignolet will start against Huddersfield Town on Saturday because the erratic display against Tottenham Hotspur was out of context with his recent Liverpool form.

The goalkeeper and the defender Dejan Lovren were widely criticised for errors in the 4-1 defeat at Wembley last Sunday, although Klopp insists Mignolet was at fault only for Spurs’ fourth goal and that was “the first mistake I can remember [from him] in the last few weeks”. He says he has given no thought to replacing Mignolet with Loris Karius against David Wagner’s team and claims the pair have been unfairly blamed for collective defensive failings.

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Barca desperately chasing €150m to plug wage bill black hole

English // marca
Barca desperately chasing €150m to plug wage bill black hole
Barca desperately chasing €150m to plug wage bill black hole

Everton's Gueye close to signing new deal

English // marca
Everton's Gueye close to signing new deal
Everton's Gueye close to signing new deal

Neymar fed up with the length of Emery's video sessions

English // marca
Neymar fed up with the length of Emery's video sessions
Neymar fed up with the length of Emery's video sessions

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Four titles would not make me better than Senna, says Hamilton

English // marca
Four titles would not make me better than Senna, says Hamilton
Four titles would not make me better than Senna, says Hamilton

How Did a Tiny Swiss Company Quietly Secure Valuable World Cup TV Rights?

Soccer
How Did a Tiny Swiss Company Quietly Secure Valuable World Cup TV Rights?
A subsidiary of Grupo Televisa, a giant Mexican television network, is under scrutiny in a corruption probe.

Burnley's Vokes, Wood face fitness tests ahead of Newcastle game

English // marca
Burnley's Vokes, Wood face fitness tests ahead of Newcastle game
Burnley's Vokes, Wood face fitness tests ahead of Newcastle game

Football transfer rumours: Danny Rose and Luke Shaw to swap clubs?

Football | The Guardian
Football transfer rumours: Danny Rose and Luke Shaw to swap clubs?

Today’s tell-all is enjoying the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness

Why can’t everyone just get along? It’s a question the Rumour Mill ponders on a daily basis, as it surveys the news over its morning mug of bracing custom blend Mountain Morning Organic, to be confronted with one sad story of discord and disharmony, after another, with few being more heart-rending than the apparent frostiness between José Mourinho and Luke Shaw. Previously the world’s most expensive teenager, Shaw is now fourth or fifth choice left-back at Manchester United and suffered his latest humiliation upon being given only four minutes of action in the knockings of a Carabao Cup match his side had already put to bed against Swansea City.

Yesterday the Guardian reported that Mourinho is “understood to be unhappy with Shaw’s attitude”, while today the story has moved on with the Times informing that the pair are no longer on speaking terms and Shaw may seek a move elsewhere in January. A known fan of Danny Rose, who has previous in the field of voicing his dissatisfaction with the miserly stipend on which he is forced to scrape by at Tottenham Hotspur, Mourinho may attempt to orchestrate a swap deal both players could find mutually beneficial in January.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Guatemalan Soccer Executive Gets 8 Months in FIFA Corruption Case

Soccer
Guatemalan Soccer Executive Gets 8 Months in FIFA Corruption Case
On Wednesday, Héctor Trujillo became the first of scores of convicted soccer officials and businessmen to be punished in the case.

Torres reaches Luis Aragones' iconic total

English // marca
Torres reaches Luis Aragones' iconic total
Torres reaches Luis Aragones' iconic total

Marc Cucurella the latest La Masia pearl

English // marca
Marc Cucurella the latest La Masia pearl
Marc Cucurella the latest La Masia pearl

Football transfer rumours: Marco Reus to Manchester United or Arsenal?

Football | The Guardian
Football transfer rumours: Marco Reus to Manchester United or Arsenal?

Today’s gossip is looking for a fresh start

He may have steered Southampton to an eighth place finish in the Premier League last season, but in doing so Claude Puel seemed to leave regulars at Saint Mary’s decidedly underwhelmed by the manner in which he went about his work. The Frenchman’s on-pitch tactics were widely reported to be a reflection of his personality off it: quietly efficient but decidedly dull. Ultimately, they cost him his job in the summer, despite the decent league position and an appearance in a League Cup final Southampton were unlucky not to win. Nevertheless, it seems Leicester City are of the opinion that Puel’s is the safe pair of hands the club needs to steady a ship that had begun listing under Craig Shakespeare and he has emerged as a surprise contender to take over at the King Power Stadium. The 56-year-old is the new odds-on favourite to be next manager of Leicester and is reported by several newspapers to be in talks about who would make up his backroom team, a state of affairs that suggests the job is his to turn down.

Related: Slaven Bilic admits West Ham players do not run enough in games

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Pep Guardiola blames Carabao Cup ball for City’s struggle against Wolves

Football | The Guardian
Pep Guardiola blames Carabao Cup ball for City’s struggle against Wolves
• Claudio Bravo saved two penalties as league leaders reached last eight
• Guardiola: the ball was unacceptable for a high-level competition

Pep Guardiola branded the ball used in Manchester City’s 4-1 penalty shootout win over Wolverhampton Wanderers as “unacceptable for a high-level competition” after his side survived a scare to progress to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals after extra time.

Related: Claudio Bravo’s two penalty saves help Manchester City past Wolves

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U.S. Soccer Names Dave Sarachan to Coach Men’s Team Against Portugal

Soccer
U.S. Soccer Names Dave Sarachan to Coach Men’s Team Against Portugal
Sarachan, a longtime assistant to Bruce Arena, takes the helm after the men’s humiliating elimination from qualifying for the World Cup.

South Africa captain Du Plessis to be fit for Boxing Day test

English // marca
South Africa captain Du Plessis to be fit for Boxing Day test
South Africa captain Du Plessis to be fit for Boxing Day test

Football rumours: Ryan Giggs to manage Everton or Leicester City?

Football | The Guardian
Football rumours: Ryan Giggs to manage Everton or Leicester City?

Today’s fluff is wearing a sheepskin coat and barking orders from the touchline

Yes, well, that Ronald Koeman business didn’t go exactly to plan for Everton. Still, at least the Dutchman can leave the managerial post at Goodison with his head held high, boasting a better win percentage than Mike Walker, Walter Smith, Roberto Martínez, David Moyes, last trophy winner Joe Royle, the legendary Howard Kendall during his second coming, and Thomas H McIntosh who secured a couple of titles and the FA Cup and signed Dixie Dean. Good old statistics! Well done Ronald! 

Related: David Unsworth in temporary charge after Ronald Koeman sacked by Everton

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Postecoglou owes it to Australian football to finish the job he started

Football | The Guardian
Postecoglou owes it to Australian football to finish the job he started

The farcical ‘will he, won’t he’ debate has detracted from the task at hand – to beat Honduras and advance to the World Cup

Winston Churchill once described Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. If only Ange Postecoglou was so simple.

Two weeks since reports surfaced that the Socceroos manager would quit regardless of whether his team qualifies for the 2018 World Cup next month, Postecoglou’s future remains shrouded in uncertainty. Football fans hoping for an answer on the ABC’s Australian Story on Monday night were left disappointed. This was more hagiography than interrogation.

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Best Fifa Awards 2017: Cristiano Ronaldo wins men's player of year – as it happened

Football | The Guardian
Best Fifa Awards 2017: Cristiano Ronaldo wins men's player of year – as it happened

Cristiano Ronaldo won the men’s award for the fourth time in five years while Lieke Martens was named best female player and Oliver Giroud won best goal

9.16pm BST

So Ronaldo wins the Fifa player of the year award for the fourth time in five years. That’s five awards apiece for him and Messi, the Argentinian’s golden period coming when he won four in a row between 2009 and 2012. Next year will sure be interesting. Will it? Only marginally. Olivier Giroud will be pleased with his night’s work. Makes a change from sitting on the bench in the Premier League at least. And peace even broke out among the women after the shortlist caused such controversy. Martens is a worthy winner, and Lloyd showed her enduring class … Thanks for joining. Bye

Congratulations and well deserved @liekemartens1 on winning #thebest! Also congrats to @deynac18 on your nomination! All the best 2 u both!

9.02pm BST

Ronaldo may be happy, but some pf you guys are less so. Francis Mead reignites an old debate from last season.

“Mkhitaryan’s goal was better than Giroud’s,” he writes. “Similar, but faster ball, harder to execute - if Giroud’s was judged better than the others, Miki’s goal was another notch better”

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Everton's 'upgrade' ends up in Koeman exit

English // marca
Everton's 'upgrade' ends up in Koeman exit
Everton's 'upgrade' ends up in Koeman exit

N.Y.C.F.C. Ties at Citi Field but Still Claims Playoff Bye

Soccer
N.Y.C.F.C. Ties at Citi Field but Still Claims Playoff Bye
David Villa scored twice against Columbus but failed to convert a penalty kick in extra time. Still, his team clinched a bye when Toronto tied Atlanta.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Benzema ´very happy´ at Real Madrid amid Arsenal rumours

Karim Benzema has no desire to leave Real Madrid despite reports of an offer from Arsenal, according to the striker's agent.

Rumours in Spain this week claim the Gunners have launched a bid to sign the 29-year-old in the January transfer window.

Benzema has only managed two goals this season and missed a clear chance against Tottenham in Tuesday's 1-1 Champions League draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.

His disappointing form has led to speculation he could leave next year, despite having signed a new four-year contract last month, but his representative has made it clear he is content in the Spanish capital.

"Karim Benzema is very happy at Real Madrid," Karim Djaziri told Sky Sports News.

"He signed a contract extension last month and has absolutely no intention of leaving the club."

Benzema missed four LaLiga games with a hamstring injury but scored on his return to the side in last weekend's 2-1 win at Getafe.

The champions host Eibar in their next outing on Sunday.

Brighton boss Hughton feels ´unacceptable´ behaviour remains in football

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton feels there is still an "unacceptable" level of offensive behaviour in football despite significant improvements in recent years.

The Football Association has been in the spotlight this week following an investigation into the conduct of former England women's boss Mark Sampson.

The FA apologised to England players Eniola Aluko and Drew Spence after new evidence showed Sampson to have made remarks that were "discriminatory on the grounds of race".

Hughton, who became the first mixed-race player to represent the Republic of Ireland, says there is a "better environment" in football today but still believes there are steps forward to be taken.

"We are all very aware at this particular moment of what does cross the line, certainly anything that is deemed offensive to any individual," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"It's not just about what's offensive to the changing room. If there is something said that's offensive to one particular individual, it's crossing the line.

"What we have in the game at the moment is certainly a better environment than there used to be, but there are areas that are still very much unacceptable.

"In our workplace at the moment, I think we are very aware of what's acceptable and what's not acceptable."

´Surprised´ Appleton calls for Foxes focus after Shakespeare sacking

Leicester City caretaker boss Michael Appleton is focusing purely on preparing his players for Saturday's clash with Swansea City as the club adjusts to the departure of Craig Shakespeare.

Shakespeare, who guided the Foxes away from a relegation battle in impressive fashion last season, was sacked on Tuesday after just one win from the opening eight Premier League games of 2017-18.

That poor start has left the 2015-16 champions languishing in the relegation zone ahead of a trip to the Liberty Stadium this weekend.

Appleton conceded it was a shock to hear of Shakespeare's departure, but called on the squad to concentrate their energies on securing a much-needed win in south Wales.

"I was a little bit surprised like most people but then there's the old adage nothing surprises you in football - it gets used a lot," he told a media conference.

"You find yourself very quickly being put in a situation where you have a group of staff and players to prepare for a big game on Saturday.

I love you, take my watch! – How Arnautovic earned a special gift from Mourinho

West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic says Jose Mourinho gave him his watch after he turned up for Inter training hours early to avoid another confrontation with the head coach.

The Austria international endured a difficult loan spell at San Siro in the Portuguese's final year in charge, making only three Serie A appearances in the Nerazzurri's treble-winning season.

Mourinho later described Arnautovic as "a fantastic person with the attitude of a child" and the club declined to take up the option to sign him permanently from Twente, allowing him to join Werder Bremen.

Arnautovic, though, retains a fond memory of Mourinho that stems from a desperate attempt to avoid a telling-off after his lack of punctuality caused problems on a pre-season tour.

"We were at Abu Dhabi for pre-season with Inter in 2009," he told The Daily Mail. "I overslept for breakfast. Late number one.

"Then there was the team meeting. The hotel was huge and my room was on the 75th floor. I am waiting for the lift and I press and I press and still I have got seven minutes so I am okay. But then I still didn't make it. Disaster. Number two.

"Then, before we meet for the game, it was happening again and I was like: 'He is going to kill me'. So then we fought a little bit and I was out of the team that day, training on my own.

"Back in Milan, I thought we were training in the morning and I went in just perfect. There were no cars there. We were actually training in the afternoon that day!

"Mourinho is there with his staff and he stands up and starts applauding and laughing. He said: 'You are my man. You come here five hours before training. I love you! Here, take my watch'. I still have that watch in my house."

Dyche not aware of any approach amid Leicester speculation

Sean Dyche insists he is unaware of any approach regarding the vacant Leicester City manager's post and was quick to dismiss reports linking him with the role as "a good story for the media".

The Burnley boss has been touted as a possible replacement for Craig Shakespeare following the latter's sacking on Tuesday, in the wake of the Foxes' poor start to 2017-18.

Leicester sit third from bottom in the Premier League with just one win from eight matches ahead of their trip to Swansea City on Saturday, when the Clarets - flying high in seventh with just one defeat - face the daunting task of visiting free-scoring leaders Manchester City.

"It's not the first time I've been linked. You're flattered by it. It's some form of recognition of the work done," he told a media conference.

"It's a paper story. I've never been aware of any approach. There's nothing in my consideration other than Man City."

Vardar vs Real Sociedad

Vardar

Featuring the group stage of the European competition has affected Vardar’s domestic campaign performances since they have already dropped points to stay six points behind of Shkendija at the top of the First League standings.

Cedomir Janevski’s men managed to “buy” their fans’ confidence on Saturday when they bagged as many as four goals past Shendija in the domestic derby to boost up the confidence ahead of Sociedad’s visit.

Real Sociedad

Txkuri-Urdinak finally managed to keep their net untouched last weekend when they dispatched the rock-bottomed Deportivo Alaves 0-2 on the road to climb up to the seventh position in the La Liga standings.

Eusebio Sacristian’s side has previously conceded at least three goals in five consecutive outings in all competitions, including the 3-1 loss to Zenit in the second round of Europa League.

The bookies clearly expect this to be a one-way street from the very first minute pricing the Basques as 1/4 favs to get away with points.

Sacristian’s men are indeed favourites, but we would not be shocked to see Vardar on target as well given Sociedad’s poor form at the back and the fact they’ve bagged four against Shkendija at the weekend.

Ostersunds FK vs Athletic Bilbao

Ostersunds FK

The English manager Graham Potter can be proud of the job he has done so far with Ostersunds.

The team’s main strength lies at the back since they are yet to concede in this term of Europa League and since they will come into the clash with the Spaniards on the back of four consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.

Athletic Bilbao

The visitors, on the other side, have been struggling a lot ever since Ernesto Valverde took over Barcelona this summer.

The Basques sit in the bottom half of the Primera Division standings and they have only claimed a single point so far in Europa League failing to produce in the final third against both Hertha and Zorya.

Even though the hosts should be favourites according to the form guide, we believe the weekend’s important 1-0 win over Sevilla will help Bilbao with the confidence ahead of what could be the most important Europa League fixture for them this Thursday.

The visitors have the quality to turn things around in the Group J and we’ll back them to come on top here at the odds of 4/5.

Nice vs Lazio

Nice

Les Aiglons have been playing hot and cold since the start of the season which is why they hold the disappointing 14th position after nine rounds of the competition in the domestic league.

Lucien Favre’s men have been quite easy to break down in the recent weeks having allowed as many as eight goals in last three league outings with Angers, Marseille and Montpellier.

Lazio

Biancocelestio have not been so dominant in their Europa League wins, but they will come into the game in much higher spirits following a massive three-pointer from Alli8anz Stadium in Turin.

Both teams have pretty strong options in the final third in the likes of Alassane Plea & Mario Balotelli on one and Ciro Immobile on the other side.

Given tboth Nice’s and Lazio’s attacking style of football, we just can’t see a low-scoring affair which is why the best of the betting options would clearly be BTTS at 7/10.

Marseille vs Vitoria Guimaraes

Olympique Marseille

Rudi Garcia is desperate for the victory which would boost up his team’s confidence after a disappointing 3-3 draw with the newly-promoted Strasbourg side at Stade de la Meine on Sunday evening in the last game of the Matchday No 9 in Ligue 1.

Marseille actually had to save a point at the end as Mitroglou’s goal on the debut made it all square just minutes before the final whistle.


Vitoria Guimaraes

Guimaraes will hardly repeat the last year’s success when they earned the right to play the continental competition through Primeira Liga.

Os Vimaranenses have found it very tough to produce in the final third at the start of the new season which is why they hold the ninth position with no more than ten points from eight games in the top flight of the Portuguese football.

Guimaraes conceded three goals in previous two Europa League outings and we can hardly see them stopping the red-hot attack of Marseille’s (seven goals in last two games) from netting three or more at Velodrome.
Valere Germain has already bagged five goals so far in Europa League (including qualifications) and you can have him to score anytime at 6/5 here.

Lugano vs Viktoria Plzen

Lugano

The hosts are going through a very tough period as they will come into the game with Viktoria on the back of five straight losses in all competitions.

The negative run actually stretches to seven defeats and a win in last eight games (the victory came against the lower-division Koniz in the Swiss cup).

Viktoria Plzen

The story is completely opposite with Viktoria Plzen who hold the perfect record of ten wins in ten games in the top flight of the Czech football.

Viktorka are thus eight points clear at the top of the Czech Liga standings and they will have a very nice chance to make it seven wins on the bounce in all competitions this Thursday against the struggling Lugano side.

Everything points out to a one-way street here as Viktoria Plzen come into the game as massive favourites.

Michal Krmencik is 6/5 to find the back of the net, while you can also get Plzen to win by two or more goals at the sky-high 5/2 odds.

Konyaspor vs Salzburg

Konyaspor

Mustafa Akcay have been struggling a lot with their form in the domestic league, though, as they collected no more than seven points from opening eight games.

The latest of the failures happed on Sunday when Kona dropped home points to Galatasaray (0-2 defeat).

Salzburg

The visitors have been doing much better in their domestic campaign where the Red Bulls hold the second position (a single point deficit to Sturm Graz) after 11 matches.

Marco Rose’s men managed a massive 1-0 victory over Olympique Marseille two weeks ago to launch themselves at the top of the Group I standings with four points from opening two fixtures.

Salzburg have been in a better form, but it is very hard to judge the value of the 3/4 odds offered for the away win pick knowing that Konya have not been that easy to beat on the home court so far in the season.

The hosts will likely sit at the back waiting for their chances through counter attacks which makes the Under 2.5 goals FT bet a decent call here at the 4/5 odds.

Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs FCSB

Hapoel Be’er Sheva

Bachar Barak’s men managed to recover after a horrendous kick off to their title defense quest in the top flight of Israeli football.

Hapoel snatched three wins and a draw after getting only a single point from opening two rounds of Ligat Ha’al.

FCSB

Viorel Tanase’s men mean business. They have been very hard to break down recently allowing only a single goal in last five outings in Liga I.

They trashed Viktoria Plzen 3-0 in front of their fans in the first round of Europa League, backing it up with a 1-2 away win at Lugano two weeks ago.

FCSB produced much better football so far in the campaign and we just can’t ignore the 3/4 odds offered for them to leave Yaakov Turner Toto Stadium undefeated on Thursday.

Moreover, the value is massive with Budescu to keep the spell of excellent form going and score anytime at the sky-high 5/2 odds.

Red Star vs Arsenal

Red Star

The hosts could have easily had the perfect record and six points after two rounds, but they were unlucky to fail and double the lead on the opening day against BATE (ended in a 1-1 draw in Belgrade).

Arsenal

Even though Arsene Wenger rested his key players in Europa League, the Gunners had no troubles easing past both Koln and BATE to collect the maximum of six points from two games.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud lead Arsenal troops in Europa League and they have scored three of team’s seven goals so far.

The gulf in quality should be notable, but we don’t expect Arsenal to have that easy of a job in front of Red Star’s fans on Thursday.

The Gunners are more than vulnerable at the back with their mixed lineup and we feel Red Star’s attacking line can bag at least one here.

BATE vs Koln

BATE

Aleksandr Yermakovich’s men managed a huge point from the visit to Belgrade on the opening day, but they just couldn’t get anything from the second-round clash with Arsenal’s reserve lineup losing 2-4 in front of their fans.

The victory over the rock-bottomed Koln might be crucial to their ambitions of staying in the contest for the top two spots in the group.

Koln

The international break did not bring many positives to Koln who left Mercedes-Benz Arena empty-handed to stay at the very foot of the Bundesliga standings with a single point from the opening eight fixtures of the season.

They dropped the ball in Europa League as well losing the home outing to Red Star two weeks ago even though we must say they completely dominated the pitch in the second half.

None of the two teams can afford a defeat and we can say that we are in for a thrilling evening of football at Borisov Arena.

The hosts proved out to be super vulnerable conceding four goals to Arsenal last time out and we believe the luck will turn around for Koln here against the Belarusian outfit.

Astana vs Maccabi Tel Aviv

Astana

The Bulgarian manager Stanimir Stoilov is just inches away from securing the domestic title after Sunday’s home victory over the fourth-placed Irtysh.

The Blue and Yellows are now four points clear at the top of the standings with three games left to play and a game in hand on the second-placed Kairat who are the only threat to their crown at this stage.

Maccabi Tel Aviv

The visitors have just started their domestic campaign which sees them holding the second place after opening seven rounds in Ligat Ha’al.

Jordi Cruyff’s men notched two goals in each of their last two outings in the top flight of the Israeli football, but Vidhar Kjartansson, Omer Atzily & company are yet to score in the group phase of Europa League.

Both teams have found it tough to score in the European competition and given the third-round clash will have a massive importance for them, we just can’t see goals galore.

This makes the Under 2.5 goals FT by far the best of the betting options, while the draw appears to be the most likable of outcomes.