The Europa League marches into its fourth round of action as the respective groups begin to take shape.
We preview the two games involving English opposition on Thursday.
Toulouse v Liverpool – Thursday 17:45
Toulouse were rewarded with a place in this season’s Europa League after winning last season’s Coupe de France, in what was their first season back in the French top-flight since 2019/20. That ended the Violets’ 14-year wait for European football, but the influx of added fixtures seems to be taking a toll as they’ve only won three of their 14 games this season.
Even so, Carles Martínez Novell’s men will want to keep this journey on the continent alive, but to do so they will likely need a win here as they look set to battle for second place in Group C with Union SG, who they share four points after three games with. A hefty 5-1 defeat against upcoming opponents Liverpool in the last round is sure to have knocked their confidence, and their odds of 11/2 suggest a mighty performance is needed if they are to avenge that loss.
Liverpool have predictably imposed themselves on Group C, boasting a perfect record of three wins from three matches, and the Merseyside club can now qualify for the knockout stages if they emerge from the Stadium Municipal victorious, which will extend their record of having reached a knockout phase in each of their last eight European campaigns. They are 4/11 to make lightwork of their opposition on Thursday.
The Reds won’t be preparing Anfield for the UEL knockout rounds just yet since their away form in European competitions has been patchy in recent years, winning just five of their last 15 on the road. Liverpool also showed a chink in their armour away from home when their four-game winning streak came to an end against lowly Luton Town on Sunday, so a double chance punt on Toulouse or draw at 15/8 might present some value.
Ajax v Brighton – Thursday 17:45
It’s been uncharted territory for 28-time Eredivisie champions Ajax in recent times, with successive victories enough to only recently move them off the foot of the table in the Dutch top-flight. Such has been the desperate start to their campaign both domestically and on the European front, they find themselves in a domestic relegation battle and staring down the barrel of a Europa League group stage exit.
Sitting at the bottom of Group B with two points from three games, it’s getting towards despairing territory for Ajax, and with eight successive winless outings against English opposition, the visit of Brighton suggests it could get even worse for them. New boss John van ‘t Schip will hope he can arrest that run in his first-ever Europa League game in management, though his side will have to overcome odds of 29/10 for a much needed victory.
Brighton are enjoying their maiden European campaign and can take a giant stride towards the knockout stages with a victory in Amsterdam. Their weekend result wasn’t quite as positive, drawing 1-1 against lowly Everton, although after boss Roberto De Zerbi made five changes to that side from their game prior, it’s evident he’s trying his best to strike a balance between domestic and European exploits.
Perhaps that’s a contributing factor to Brighton’s patchy run of late – winning one of their last six games – although that sole win in that streak did come against Thursday’s opposition, with the Seagulls winning 2-0 at the Amex Stadium back in October. A repeat result would be welcomed in Brighton’s first-ever trip to the Netherlands in UEFA competition, not least because it would see them climb into Group B’s top-two with just two games left, and they are odds-on at 7/10 to achieve exactly that.
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