The UEFA Europa League will grace our screens again from Thursday night, with two English teams with very different experience in Europe taking to the field in the second tier of European competition.
We preview both games below.
LASK v Liverpool – Thursday 17:45
LASK are back in the Europa League group stage for a third time and will share the Group E stage with Toulouse, Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, and Liverpool – the latter of whom their campaign gets under way against this time around.
The Austrian side will be looking to cause a big upset as they go in search of a first win against English opposition and enter Thursday’s clash in excellent form, having lost just once and won six of their last ten matches. They’ve also proven a tough nut to crack on the continental circuit, losing just once across their last 16 fixtures in European competitions, but will start as the heavy 8/1 underdogs.
They’ve hardly faced a side with the calibre of Liverpool in that stint, who are arguably the most esteemed club in the competition with their six UEFA Champions League triumphs, the most recent of which came in 2019 against Tottenham. However, the Reds have never won the UEL, having missed the golden opportunity in their last appearance in the tournament when losing the 2016 final 3-1 to Sevilla, but are 2/7 to get their 2023/24 campaign off to a winning start on Thursday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side arguably haven’t been as easy on the eye as they have in previous seasons but have still managed to pick up four wins out of their opening five Premier League games, with Saturday’s 3-1 comeback win away at Wolves meaning they’re now unbeaten in 16 domestic games. Mohamed Salah provided two assists on Saturday and is the 11/10 favourite to score anytime for the visitors, whilst Darwin Nunez (13/10) could be awarded a rare start in a rotated Liverpool side.
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Brighton v AEK Athens – Thursday 20:00
As far as preparation goes for your first ever match in European competition, Brighton’s devastating 3-1 victory at Old Trafford against Manchester United was about as good as it gets. The Seagulls made it to the European stage with a sixth-placed Premier League finish last season and have been in brilliant form again this campaign, winning four of their opening five league games and amassing a league-high 15 goals.
Interestingly, all of those victories have ended 3-1 or 4-1, so you’d expect goals will again be on the menu on Thursday night. While Brighton’s European experience is non-existent, manager Roberto De Zerbi has tasted continental football before when his Shakhtar Donetsk side reached the Champions League group stage in 2021/22, but he’ll hope Brighton don’t replicate the winless record he managed back then. The Seagulls are the firm 2/9 favourites to pick up three points here, with over 2.5 goals priced at 8/13.
AEK Athens travel to Sussex on a sober note after they surrendered a 1-0 lead against bitter rivals Olympiacos on Sunday. Their opening three Greek Super League games have yielded just one win, though two draws mean it’s been an unbeaten domestic start for Matías Almeyda’s men so far this season. Their last 12 away trips in European competitions have returned an impressive eight clean sheets, albeit five of them came in 0-0 draws, but they will have to overcome odds of 10/1 if they are to claim a victory on Thursday night, with a draw deemed more likely at 11/2.
Unlike Liverpool, Brighton will likely line up with a full-strength team to christen their European debut. Japanese winger Kaoru Mitoma is therefore a shout in the anytime goalscoring market at 13/8, whilst Ansu Fati (13/8) could be in line for a first start for the Seagulls after coming off the bench at Old Trafford.
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