Europa League Tips: A Fraught Final To Say Farewell
United and Villarreal head to Gdansk for the Europa League showpiece event and Liam takes a look at the betting options
This is a tough game to call from a betting perspective. Both teams arrive in Gdansk in surprisingly underwhelming form and their respective strengths are difficult to compare.
Villarreal v Manchester United 26 May 20:00 BST
This season has been a giant step forward for United. The addition of Cavani was an inspired move and they have gone from strength to strength since his arrival. United broke their semi-final hoodoo against Roma and were firmly best-of-the-rest in the Premier League. Soljskear’s men only lost a single game between the end of January and their trip to Rome earlier this month.
However, since that trip to Stadio Olimpico, things have taken a turn for the worse. The Red Devils lost three and drew one of their final six games (and that draw came against lowly Fulham). Excuses can be made for this sudden drop in form though. United had essentially sealed Champions League football and those games did not matter a whole lot but the question remains whether United can turn it back on for the final game of the campaign.
A Foregone Conclusion?
United have a much deeper squad than Villarreal and they are are deserved favourites. Their squad cost almost £630m to assemble, more than five times that of Villarreal. On paper this game should not be much of a contest. However, United’s strong domestic record is based primarily on bullying weaker opposition. They have not really troubled the top teams in the league this season, picking up just two wins in 10 games against the so called Big Six. In fact they managed only 6 wins against teams in the top half of the table all season.
A Sinking Submarine?
Villarreal’s campaign has been somewhat similar to United’s in many regards. They went on a fantastic run early in campaign, but a late drop in form saw them finish 7th in La Liga. Their record against big teams is dire. Of the teams above them in the table they only managed to beat Sevilla. It was a different story in the Europa League mind, El Submarino Amarillo are unbeaten so far in Europe this term. Unai Emery’s men have won twelve of their 14 games and will be no pushovers in Gdansk.
United are 2/5 to lift the trophy, and just inside evens to win the game. That discrepancy seems a little off to me considering the nature of United’s form and Unai Emery’s Europa League record. If United can produce one of their better performances they should be too strong for Villarreal and win in 90 minutes. However, if the teams are closer than the odds imply, and the game does go to extra time, I would fancy the Spaniards to go all the way. If Villarreal are to lift the trophy I could see it happening late on, as they are unlikely to overpower United. Villareal to win in extra time looks very interesting at 16/1 (the highest odds of any of the method of victory markets) and is worth a small bet.
A Shot At The Trophy?
There are a number of bets that stand out in the player markets. Samuel Chukwueze for Villareal is 10/11 for at least one SOT and is the bet of the game for me. United allow a lot of shots and Chukwueze likes to shoot. The Nigerian has tried his luck 21 times in 12 Europa League games this season, including two in the opening half an hour against Arsenal before being subbed off with a tight hamstring. The only question is around fitness as he was stretchered off at the Emirates. Emery is confident his star winger will be fit and I’m inclined to back him now rather than wait.
What is a slight surprise is to see the two Villarreal forwards as the favourites to hit the target. Not that they are unlikely to register shots, but that they are both ahead of Edinson Cavani in the market. The Uruguayan is the favourite to to find the back of the net on Wednesday and I’m surprised he isn’t favoured for shots too. He has taken two or more shots in eleven of his fifteen starts since Christmas, racking up 32 attempts in those games. Cavani has come into some fine form lately and looks overpriced at 11/4 for 2+ SOT.
Paul Pogba has fired off at least one shot in 17 of his last 20 games, racking up over 30 attempts in total. His improved form seems to have gone unnoticed in many quarters and at 13/10 for 1+ SOT he has to be considered.
Samuel Chukwueze 1+ SOT @ 10/11
Edinson Cavani 2+ SOT @ 11/4
Paul Pogba 1+ SOT @ 13/10
A Same Game Multi of the above three selections is available at a little over 20/1
Villarreal to Win in Extra Time @ 16/1