thumbnail Hello,

It's the opening round of the UEFA Europa League group stage, and Goal Australia's betting expert Paul Gough says the bookies expect Swansea and Wigan to struggle away

Swansea and Wigan, the two shock qualifiers for this season's Europa League, face daunting first-up tests on the road when the group stage gets underway on Thursday night.

Both clubs lifted the first major trophies in their history last season with Swansea winning the League Cup while Wigan won the FA Cup only to then be relegated back to the second tier Championship competition.

Both outfits will represent England in this season's competition along with regular qualifiers Tottenham Hotspur, who are appearing in Europe's secondary competition for the sixth time in eight seasons, having again just failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League last season.

But while Spurs are the shortest priced favourites of the 24 games being played across Europe on Thursday night - at just $1.14 at bet365 at home against Norwegian minnows Tromso at $21 - all eyes will be on how the Swans and Latics perform in their first-up European tests in the group stage.

Swansea, coming off a credible 2-2 draw with early season EPL leaders Liverpool on Monday night, face the toughest task away to 2004 UEFA Cup winners Valencia.

The Spaniards were also runners-up in the Champions League in 2000 and 2001 and go into the game as the $1.72 favourites at bet365 compared to Swansea at $5, with the draw paying $3.50.

Swansea have not been helped by having just three days between games.

But their star Spanish striker Michu finally got on the scoresheet for the first time in the EPL this season on Monday night - although he has already scored twice in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League after netting 19 goals in a stunning debut year for the Swans last season.

He is by far Swansea's most likely goalscorer on Thursday night and is good value at $3.25 at bet365 to score at any time.

But Valencia, despite having lost their past three games in La Liga, deserve to start favourites and carry their own threat in Portugal striker Helder Postiga, who is the $5.50 favourite to score the game's first goal while we like the look of a 2-1 Valencia win at odds of $8 in correct score betting at bet365.

Such is Valencia's standing that they have opened the $17 third favourites to win this season's Europa League behind Spurs at $10 and Italy's Fiorentina at $15 but this market does not include the eight teams that will join the competition from the Champions League in the knockout stages.

In four of the past nine seasons one of those teams dropping back from the Champions League has gone on to win the Europa League, including Chelsea last year.

BET
OF THE
DAY
BEST BET
VALUE BET

Back Spurs, Eintracht Frankfurt, Valencia and Real Betis to win.

Wigan are capable of holding Zulte-Waregem to a draw away from home at odds of $3.40 at bet365.

Wigan, who are struggling in 14th place in their first season back in the Championship, are the $2.90 underdogs for their trip to Belgian side Zulte-Waregem at $2.50 in Group D.

But the Latics, now under Owen Coyle after Roberto Martinez's departure to Everton, are capable of getting a draw at odds of $3.40.

The two best games on paper on Thursday night appear to be German side Eintracht Frankfurt at home against French club Bordeaux in Group F and Spain's Real Betis at home against another French club Lyon in Group I.

The two home sides are clear favourites with Frankfurt at $1.95 at bet365 against Bordeaux paying $3.90 while Betis are the $2 favourites at home against a Lyon side winless in their past five games at $3.75.

*Note prices subject to change

Goal Australia now has its own and account, so for all the latest news and features on Australian football follow us by clicking on the above links

Related