Preview: 2014/15 UEFA Europa League – Play-off Round
FK SARAJEVO – BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH 40%-60%
In the previous Rounds FK Sarajevo has always reversed away an home defeat that they had suffered in the first leg: Borussia of course is favorite, but is not a German giant, so an upset isn’t impossible, but the Bosnian club won’t have to fail the home match.
APOLLON LIMASSOL – LOKOMOTIV MOSKVA 40%-60%
The first one of the two Russia vs Cyprus clashes: the Russians are stronger, but Apollon performed more than decently last Season in Europa League, while a Russian giant often fails in EL Play-offs, so the Mediterranean club could have few chances.
FK ASTANA – VILLARREAL CF 25%-75%
Kazakh teams are never easy to be faced, especially in the First and Second Qualifying Rounds, but Villarreal is probably too strong for Astana, that could have had concrete chances against weaker teams.
BSC YOUNG BOYS – DEBRECENI VSC 55%-45%
This tie should be quite open, but the Swiss club looks a little bit more solid. Anyway there isn’t a clear favorite.
PEC ZWOLLE – AC SPARTA PRAHA 40%-60%
PEC Zwolle is probably appearing for the first time in Europe, and it’s not easy too evaluate them in UEFA competitions, while AC Sparta has a quite strong squad and a long cover. It’s true that a Dutch team should be stronger than a Czech one, but Sparta is the best one in its Country, while Dutch teams aren’t performing very well in Europe recently: anyway it must also be considered that the defeat that the Czech Champions suffered against Malmo in CLQ3 is not a good signal for them.
FC SPARTAK TRNAVA – FC ZURICH 40%-60%
The Swiss team should be stronger, but Spartak Trnava is a quite solid team with a strong support: a surprise wouldn’t be too unexpected.
FC ASTERAS TRIPOLIS – MACCABI TEL AVIV 50%-50%
Asteras impressed very well against 1. FC Mainz from Germany in the previous round, and deserved to qualify, but Maccabi is a very good team, the best from Israel, so the tie should be very balanced.
AEL LIMASSOL – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC 20%-80%
Teams from Cyprus had a very hard draw: it is true that sometimes Tottenham doesn’t take EL too seriously, but this should be one of the closest tie.
DNIPRO – HAJDUK SPLIT 55%-45%
Dnipro is probably a little bit stronger, but Hajduk is never easy to be face, it is always dangerous, and is quite solid, despite fielding several youngsters: this tie should be quite open.
DINAMO MINSK – NACIONAL 50%-50%
Belarussians teams are growing and they performed quite well in the previous rounds, while Portuguese teams different from the big three are usually among the weakest ones in Group Stage, but in Play-off they could still be dangerous.
Nacional was seeded at the draw, but if the unseeded team would progress, it wouldn’t be a big surprise.
FK QARABAG – FC TWENTE 45%-55%
FK Qarabag is always a very solid team in Europe, and in this Season they are making no exception, while Dutch teams aren’t performing very well in Europe recently. Twente is still a bit favorite, but they’ll have to be very careful, because they aren’t anymore the team that won Eredivise few years ago.
These teams have already faced eachother in 2009/10 and Twente won 3-1 on aggregate.
PETROLUL PLOIESTI – DINAMO ZAGREB 60%-40%
Despite being unseeded, Petrolul is a very dangerous and quite solid team, while Dinamo Zagreb is always very unpredictable.
HJK – RAPID WIEN 50%-50%
Another good draw for the Finnish club, that has another golden chance to reach EL Group Stage, despite being defeated by APOEL in CLQ3. This tie should be very balanced and there should be no big gap between these teams: HJK has several Finnish Internationals and few former ones in its squad (Forssell, Vayrinen, Tainio, Lampi and Heikkinen), while Rapid can field less Internationals, but has very warm supporters, Austrian Bundesliga is stronger than Finnish Veikkausliiga, and usually Rapid is quite good in PO (you may ask to Asotn Villa), but then they usually get lost in Group Stages. Anyway the club from Wien is that kind of team that can both defeat stronger opponents and be defeated by weaker ones.
TRABZONSPOR – FK ROSTOV 50%-50%
This should be one of the strongest and balanced ties, both teams can’t be happy for the draw.
Trabzonspor is consolidating in the top positions of Turkish Superliga, and recently they are playing more than decently in Europe, while unseeded Russian teams are always dangerous and are one of the worst draws possible, despite being often quite unpredictable.
FC ZIMBRU CHISINAU – PAOK 35% – 65%
FC Zimbru Chisinau from Moldova is one of the minnows of this round, and reached this Round starting from the First one, surprising both CSKA Sofia and Grodig (Austria) and in the past they have performed quite decently in Preliminary Rounds, but they never managed to reach the Group Stage.
PAOK FC is obviously stronger and favorite, but probably it is a little bit weaker than last season and it will have to take Zimbru very seriously.
RNK SPLIT – TORINO FC 45%-55%
Torino is stronger but is a mid-table team in Serie A, whose main strenght is its coach, Gianpiero Ventura: moreover they lost their best players, Immobile and, most of all Cerci (not yet), but they strenghtened the squad making the cover longer.
Torino is stronger, but it won’t be easy for them, because RNK Split proved to be a very solid and competitive team.
DYNAMO MOSCOW – OMONIA NICOSIA 70%-30%
Dynamo Moscow is probably one of the strongest squads of this Round, but in the recent past disappointed in Preliminmary Rounds and has never reached the Group Stage and is quite unpredictable.
Omonia is a quite solid and well supported team: they could have few chances.
FK AKTOBE – LEGIA 45%-55%
Legia probably doesn’t deserve to be here, because they defeated Celtic FC in CLQ3, but in the Second Leg they had fielded a banned player for 5 minutes (he had missed three matches, but had not been registered in the list in the first two of them), so they were given a 3-0 loss and so were dropped to Europa League because of away goal rule (First Leg: 4-1): according to some rumors (we don’t know whether they can be true or totally false), this mistake could have been made deliberately.
The Poles are probably a bit stronger, three years ago they had a good European campaign, while last Season they had a very disappointing one, and the event that I had just explained you could affect them psychologically, while the fact that now they can contest for EL Final, that will be played in Warsaw, shouldn’t help them too much; moreover FK Aktobe is a very solid an dangerous team, and in the past went close to EL Group Stage several times: it won’t be easy for Legia.
OLYMPIQUE LYON – ASTRA GIURGIU 60%-40%
OL is obviously stronger but this season it could be one of the weakest of its recent brilliant history, while Astra Giurgiu is, together with Petrolul Ploiesti, an emerging team and is consolidating in the top positions of Romanian football and can now play in its own new stadium. The French team is still favorite, but it won’t be easy for it.
LOKEREN – HULL CITY 50%-50%
Hull City isn’t a top Premier League team and in the previous round they managed to eliminate Trencin from Slovakia just in the final minutes of the Second Leg, while Lokeren isn’ a top Belgian team either, but should be stronger than the Slovak team and should be quite competitive, like almost every Belgian team: this tie could be more open than one could expect.
FK PARTIZAN – PFC NEFTCHI BAKU 50%-50%
These teams faced eachother in EL GS two years ago and both matches were quite balanced (two draws), and this year it should be the same. Partizan is maybe slightly stronger, but is very unpredictable and sometimes suffers (big) upsets, so they usually are a good draw for an unseeded team, while Neftchi, as the others Azeri teams, can be very dangerous.
Very open tie.
RUCH CHORZOW – METALIST KHARKIV 30%-70%
The Ukrainian team is (much) stronger even if it’s probably a bit weaker than in previous years, while Ruch Chorzow is quite difficult to be evaluated and often plays in an almost empty stadium, so at home isn’t helped by a strong support as it happens for other Polish clubs. Metalist should be clearly favorite.
IF ELFSBORG – RIO AVE FC 50%-50%
Elfsborg didn’t impress neither in last EL GS (one point in six matches) nor in the last Rounds of this Edition (they qualified just after PKs despite Inter Baku had played down to 10 men for 115’ in the Second Leg of QR2 and suffered a lot against FH, despite winning the first leg 4-1), and a Portuguese team should be stronger than a Swedish one, but IFE is a top team in Sweden, while Rio Ave is an average one in Portugal, and teams different from the Portuguese “big three” are often very unpredictable, so this tie should be very open.
PSV – SHAKTHYOR SALIHORSK 60%-40%
PSV is a bit stronger, but it doesn’t look as strong as it was in the past, and probably is involved in the current general crisis of Dutch football at club level, while Shakthyor, that in the previous round defeated a Belgian team, may be dangerous and can’t be underestimated.
KARABUKSPOR – SAINT ETIENNE 40%-60%
St. Etienne has been in the high part of Ligue 1 for a couple of seasons, but last year they failed to enter EL GS because they were eliminated by Esbjerg Fb, so they should pay attention to Karabukspor, that is a quite difficult team to be weighted, as every Turkish team different from the 3/4 giants, and moreover they are debutant in Europe.
FC STJARNAN – INTER FC 5%-95%
The closest tie of this Round, the club with the lowest coefficient against the team with the second highest one. Stjarnan, that started from the First Round, probably would deserve to be in the Group Stage more than any other team, considering their limited budget and the small number of inhabitants living in their town, but unluckly the draw has been quite cruel.
Anyway they can be happy to play the most prestigious match in their history, and they’ll probably be able to fill the stadium of the National Team (capacity: 10.000) and get a good amount of money for that.
PANATHINAIKOS FC – FC MIDTJYLLAND 60%-40%
The Greek club has been (much) stronger in the past, but, after a very difficult season two years ago because of financial troubles, they are rebuilding their squad with Greek youngsters and few experienced foreigners, and they should be still favorite.
FCM is an emerging club in Denmark and, according to Danish bet companies, is one of the main favorites to win 2014/15 Danish Superliga, but last Season they had a very good start, but in the final matchdays they wasted what they had built in the previous months and even failed to end second and to qualify for Champions Lerague.
ZORYA LUHANSK – FEYENOORD 45%-55%
It’s difficult to evaluate Zorya because they are debutants in Europe; anyway they defeated Molde in the previous round and can be a dangerous opponents for Feyenoord, that sold few important players during the Summer and probably has’t replaced them properly.
Zorya will have no home ground advantage because their home match will be played at an Ukrainian neutral ground because Luhansk is one of the theatres of Ukrainian civil war.
GRASSHOPPERS – CLUB BRUGGE 45%-55%
It should be a quite balanced tie between two quite strong teams.
Club Brugge looks a bit favorite, but Grasshoppers, that isn’t very lucky in the draws, can be dangerous.
REAL SOCIEDAD – FK KRASNODAR 55%-45%
This is probably the strongest tie of this Round: both Real Sociedad and FK Krasnodar can be very angry for the draw: probably the strongest unseeded teams against one of the strongest seeded teams.
The Spanish side is maybe a little bit favorite, but anything can happen.
NK RIJEKA – FC SHERIFF TIRASPOL 55%-45%
This should be one of the most balanced ties. NK Rijeka is a growing ambitious team in Croatia with an ownership that invested relatively a lot in the squad (without crazy expenditures), while the Moldovan/Trasnistrian side is owned by a very rich company and is dominating Moldovan Championship, and has played three EL Group Stages in five years, especially thanks to CL Champions’ route, so increasing significantly their coefficient: anyway they are usually a good draw for an unseeded team.