Europa League Tips: Betis to extend winning streak

The Europa League's playoff round concludes on Thursday, and Kevin Hatchard has four selections...

Betis to finish the job

Betis v Zenit
Thursday 24 February, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

There's an argument to say that Real Betis are playing the best football in Spain at the moment. They are in the Champions League spots in La Liga, they have one foot in the Copa del Rey final (they won 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano in the first leg of the semi-final) and they are in pole position to reach the last 16 of the Europa League after a 3-2 first-leg success in Russia against Zenit.

Manuel Pellegrini deserves massive credit for the coaching work he has done, and he has built a platform upon which the likes of Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales can shine. Juanmi has rattled in 12 La Liga goals, and there have been fine attacking contributions from Willian Jose and Borja Iglesias.

Zenit looked like a team short of match practice in the first leg, and they were particularly bad defensively in the early part of the match. They took just a point from their three away games in the Champions League group stage, and it's hard to see them turning a 3-2 deficit around.

Betis welcome back the effervescent Fekir after suspension, and they have won their last four competitive games. I think they'll win this second leg, and I'm happy to back them to win at 2.12.

Porto to grind their way to progress

Lazio v Porto
Thursday 24 February, 17:45
Live on BT Sport

The one thing you could never say about Sergio Conceicao's Porto is that they don't have the ability to dig deep. They fought back from a goal down to win the first leg 2-1, having previously come back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Sporting in a vital game in the title race.

Porto have now put together a 14-match unbeaten run, and they face a Lazio side that is without the injured Francesco Acerbi and the suspended Mattia Zaccagni, and the Romans have won just four of their last ten games in all competitions. On home soil, they have won just three of their last eight.

I'll back Porto +0 & +0.5 on the Asian Handicap here at 1.92. If the game is drawn, we get a half-win, and a Porto win give us a payout at close to evens.

Olympiakos can keep things tight

Olympiakos v Atalanta
Thursday 24 February, 17:45
Live on BT Sport

Olympiakos proved to be gritty opponents for Atalanta last week. They took the lead, and only a quickfire double from La Dea defender Berat Djimsiti turned things in Atalanta's favour. Gian Piero Gasperini's side were unconvincing, and the weekend's 1-0 defeat at Fiorentina means they have won just one of their last seven games.

Olympiakos have won ten in a row at home, and in the group stage of this tournament they won two of their three matches. Tiquinho continued his excellent form with a brilliant goal last week, and he has now scored in four of his last eight games.

Atalanta are without injured strikers Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata, and they just don't have the same spark at the moment as they usually do under Gasperini. If they are going to go through, they might have to grind their way to a result, and I'll back Olympiakos/Draw Double Chance at 1.8.

Sheriff can spring another surprise

Braga v Sheriff
Thursday 24 February, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

In one of the biggest shocks of the first legs, Braga went down 2-0 at Sheriff in Moldova (or Transnistria, depending on your geopolitical view), and are in serious danger against a side that has already won at Real Madrid this season. Sherriff certainly weren't out of their depth in the Champions League group stage, and they'll feel confident they can protect their advantage here.
Braga have only won three of their last six home matches, and they were poor last week at in the weekend's 1-0 win at Tondela, so much so that coach Carlos Carvalhal made four substitutions just after half time.

We can give Sherriff a goal start here on the Asian Handicap at 2.28, and I'm happy to do that given that they won at the Bernabeu and drew at Shakhtar Donetsk.

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