Europa League Tips: Italians to qualify in style

As the Europa League group stage concludes, Kevin Hatchard is back with four more selections.

Hosts to win crunch clash

Napoli v Real Sociedad
Thursday 10 December, 17:55
Live on BT Sport

It's been quite a year for Napoli. After Carlo Ancelotti's dramatic exit at the back end of 2019, many were sceptical about the appointment of former Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso. However, the ex-Rangers midfielder has already delivered the Coppa Italia (they beat Juventus in the final on penalties) and he is taking the Europa League seriously.

Gattuso has picked strong sides, and the Partenopei will qualify for the last 32 as group winners if they beat Real Sociedad at the newly-named Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. A draw would still see them make progress, but AZ could take top spot if they beat Rijeka.

Real Sociedad lost 1-0 to Napoli at Anoeta, and while they have excelled in La Liga, they haven't set the pulse racing in the UEL, scoring just four goals in five group games. Last week they needed to twice come from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw against eliminated Rijeka. The feeling that a tough schedule is catching up with them was reinforced by the weekend's 0-0 draw at Alaves, a game that saw the Basque side play against ten men for half an hour, yet still fail to force a winner.

I'd be surprised if Napoli didn't field their strongest side here, and they have looked really sharp in recent 4-0 wins over Roma and Crotone. I'll back the hosts to win at 2.1.

Bayer and Bosz to bash visitors

Bayer Leverkusen v Slavia Prague
Thursday December 10, 17:55
Live on BT Sport

Both of these sides have qualified for the last 32 already, and all that remains is for top spot to be allocated. Slavia will grab it if they avoid defeat, as they beat Bayer 1-0 in the reverse fixture.

Bayer don't therefore lack motivation, and I believe they'll improve their current run of seven wins from the last eight competitive matches. All seven of those victories have featured three goals, and their home games in the UEL this term have seen them win 6-2 against Nice and 3-1 against Hapoel Beer Sheva.

I'll go for Leverkusen to win and Over 2.5 Goals at 2.12.

Foxes to secure top spot in style

Leicester City v AEK Athens
Thursday 10 December, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Leicester's rather disappointing 1-0 defeat at Zorya means they still have work to do to ensure top spot in the group, but they should have enough to see off an AEK Athens side that has struggled at this level. The Greek outfit have lost four of their five games so far, with all four of those defeats seeing them concede at least twice. Even the game they won was spectacular, as they hammered Zorya 4-1 in Ukraine.

The Foxes were boosted by Jamie Vardy's last-gasp winner in the weekend's 2-1 success at Sheffield United, and their UEL home games have seen them thrash Zorya 3-0 and Braga 4-0. Only a win will make sure of top spot, and I expect Leicester to secure it comfortably.

Do-or-die showdown to yield goals

Wolfsberger v Feyenoord
Thursday 10 December, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

Rotterdam giants Feyenoord must win if they are to qualify for the knockout stage, and I believe that will be the driving force in a hugely entertaining game. The reverse fixture saw the Austrians win 4-1 at the De Kuip, and I think we could see a similar number of goals.

Wolfsberger lost 3-0 to Dinamo Zagreb in their last UEL home match, and they recently lost 4-3 at home to Rapid Vienna in the Austrian Bundesliga. Four of their last seven competitive games at the Lavanttal Arena have featured four goals or more.

Feyenoord's recent away games have featured some crackers too, with four of the last six seeing an Over 3.5 Goals bet land.

I'll go for Over 3.5 Goals here at an attractive 2.62.

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