Spurs to shine in Europe?
Getting into Europe has always been the Holy Grail, but when it comes to the Europa League and all those extra Thursday fixtures, many clubs and their managers soon realise that it can be a bit of a pain in the neck, far more trouble than it is worth.
Even Andre Villas-Boas, boss at Spurs, favourites to win the tournament (best-priced 10/1 with Coral), is already complaining about the players’ work-load as he prepares for the visit of Tromso ahead of a Premier League fixture on Sunday and a Capital One Cup tie two days later.
At least Tottenham shouldn’t be overtaxed in tonight’s game against minnows Tromso, fourth in last year’s Norwegian league and one of the rank outsiders in this tournament. Coral go 1/8 they win the match and more fun can be had predicting the correct score in what may be a turkey shoot with the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe anxious to fill their boots. Both are 3/1 to score first or last and 8/11 to net at any time, while a correct score of 5-0 (10/1) makes some appeal.
Swansea (40/1 to win outright) and Wigan (150/1), our other Europa League representatives, face much stiffer tasks tonight, especially Swansea, who travel to Valencia to face one of the more fancied teams in the competition.
Michael Laudrup is making a real name for himself as boss of the Welsh outfit and is typically taking on this challenge head on, insisting that, while Valencia have a much stronger European pedigree, there is little to choose between the teams on form at the moment.
Both sides have started a little shakily this campaign, but Swansea are beginning to recapture their excellent form of last season and, in Michu, Wilfried Bony and Alvaro Vasquez (all 8/1 to score first or last, 11/4 at any time), they have a strike force to worry any defence. This could well end up a draw (13/5), perhaps 1-1 (7/1).
Manager Owen Coyle is also putting a positive spin on Wigan’s first European campaign and why not? The FA Cup winners may also have been relegated last May, but this is a fabulous adventure for the team and its fans and they intend to make the most of it.
Wigan travel to Belgium tonight to take on Zulte-Waregem, runners-up in their league last season (their best ever finish) and lying in fifth place after seven games of the current campaign.
This also looks a close call, but Zulte-Waregem (13/10) are probably a little higher on confidence just now than Wigan (21/10) – currently just below mid-table in the Championship – and may nick it.
Written by Jon Freeman