Europa League Tips: Shell-shocked Foxes might suffer again

The Europa League has reached the second half of the group stage, and Kevin Hatchard thinks Leicester might not find Braga to be obliging opponents a second time.

Wounded Braga will put up a fight

Braga v Leicester City
Thursday 26 November, 17:55
Live on BT Sport 1

Sporting Braga are rarely taken apart in the manner they were at the King Power on Matchday Three. Coach Carlos Carvalhal's tactical gamble (he eschewed the more familiar back four for a back three) didn't pay off, as his side crumbled to a 4-0 defeat.

So, surely Leicester are worthy favourites to win the reverse fixture? Well, maybe not. Braga's response to losing so heavily in the East Midlands was to go to Benfica and win 3-2, and they have only lost one of their last eight games at the Estadio Municipal. They won't lack motivation after that drubbing, and a strong line-up is expected.

Leicester got something of a reality check at Anfield on Sunday, as they were completely outplayed by Liverpool in a 3-0 defeat. While much was made pre-match of Liverpool's injury crisis, Leicester's has been just as bad, and boss Brendan Rodgers will have to shuffle his pack carefully ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash with Fulham. Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice against Braga on MD3, so he's likely to deputise once again for star striker Jamie Vardy.

The Foxes have a 100% record in the UEL so far, but this is a tough game against an experienced and dangerous side that has only lost one of its last ten UEL home matches. I'll back the hosts -0 on the Asian Handicap at 2.48.

Gent must go for goals

Gent v Crvena Zvezda
Thursday 26 November, 17:55
Live on BT Sport

It's been a miserable campaign for Gent in general, and in the Europa League in particular. They have lost all three of their group games so far - they went down 1-0 at Slovan Liberec, were smashed 4-1 at home by Hoffenheim and lost 2-1 in Belgrade against Crvena Zvezda (Red Star). They haven't yet been eliminated, but they'll need to win this game to have any chance of making progress.

In the Belgian top flight, there has been a recent improvement. A 4-1 win at Waasland-Beveren preceded a 1-1 draw with Anderlecht and an impressive win at Sporting Charleroi.

Crvena Zvezda are in great goalscoring form. In all competitions they have fired in 20 goals across their last six outings, netting at least twice in each of those matches. Former Perugia striker Diego Falcinelli is looking really sharp, as is Ben - the pair have 11 league goals between them already, and they have both opened their accounts in this competition.

Gent have to push for the win, and Crvena Zvezda have the firepower to enhance an exciting contest. I'll go for Over 3.5 Goals at 2.84.

Big guns set to fire

Lille v Milan
Thursday 26 November, 17:55
Live on BT Sport

Milan don't suffer many setbacks these days under Stefano Pioli, but they were humbled 3-0 at home by Lille on Matchday Three. Fans of the Rossoneri couldn't blame rotation for the defeat - Gigio Donnarumma started in goal, Zlatan Ibrahimovic led the line, and key players like Theo Hernandez and Franck Kessie started. Lille were simply the better team on the night, and Turkish striker Yusuf Yazici scored his second hat-trick of the group stage.

Milan tend to score freely on the road. They have netted at least twice in their last 13 competitive away games, and they have won nine of those games. On that basis alone I'm tempted to back Milan at rather big odds of 3.3 in the Match Odds market, but Lille are unbeaten at home and are on good form. They are only two points off top spot in Ligue 1, and they have scored at least twice in four of their last five outings at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

Although the irrepressible Zlatan is out injured, I'll still go for Over 2.5 Goals here at 1.96.

PSV to bounce back

PSV v PAOK
Thursday 26 November, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

With their squad severely depleted by an outbreak of COVID-19, PSV crashed to a 4-1 defeat at PAOK on Matchday Three, despite taking the lead in Thessaloniki. Having taken just three points from three matches, Roger Schmidt's side has to perform in this game, or they face an absence of European action (and prize money) after Christmas.

A win would get PSV right back in contention, and their Eredivisie form at the Philips Stadion is encouraging. They have won all four of their home matches in the league, scoring 11 goals in the process. They have plenty of attacking talent at their disposal, with the mercurial Israeli veteran Eran Zahavi supporting exciting youngsters like Donyell Malen, Cody Gakpo and Chukwunonso Madueke.

PAOK were superb in that 4-1 win, and they have won their last four games in all competitions, but their away form in Europe is poor. They lost at Krasnodar in the UCL qualifiers, and played out a goalless draw at Granada. Overall, they have lost four of their last six away games in the Europa League.

If PSV play anywhere near their maximum, they should win this, so I'll back them -0.5 & -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.94. If PSV win by one goal, we get a half-win, but we get a full winner at close to evens if they win by two goals or more.


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