EUROPA LEAGUE THURSDAY: Our football tipster The Ultra previews Thursday’s games featuring Celtic, West Ham, Rangers and Leicester all with a recommended BETDAQ bet and match stats.


5.45pm We’ve had a fantastic week in the Champions League, and the action doesn’t end on Thursday as we have some fascinating situation’s in the Europa League. You have to feel that it’s going to be a dramatic evening on BETDAQ Betting Exchange in-running! We start the evening in Group G with Celtic traveling to take on Bayer Leverkusen. A lot of people, including me to be honest, had Celtic wrote off in this group but they have got themselves back into the mix with two wins over Ferencvarosi. The problem for Celtic now is the fixture list – they are one point behind Real Betis, but obviously have a very tough away tie here and Real Betis get to play Ferencvarosi with home advantage. It’s likely their bid to get to the next knockout round will be gone by this game, but they will still be happy with transferring to the Europa Conference League. I know the Premier League clubs have looked down on that competition, but it’s ideal for clubs like Celtic.

Bayer Leverkusen are having a good season, and come into this game sitting in the top four in the Bundesliga. It was great to land a Max Bet on them to beat Celtic away from home, and we can do the same here. Leverkusen look excellent value in my opinion at 1.53, as I’d price them closer to 1.4. Although they have done the hard work in this group already, they aren’t sure of top spot yet and it would be ideal to keep their three point advantage here; although they should win their final group game against Ferencvarosi win. Celtic have improved their form since the sides met in Scotland when Leverkusen won 4-0, but there is a huge gulf in class here with Leverkusen playing some really nice football this season. Leverkusen generally always create chances, and when you see how many chances and goals Celtic have been giving away this season – I can only see one winner here.

The Ultra Says:
Five points win Bayer Leverkusen to beat Celtic at 1.53 with BETDAQ Exchange.

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● This is only the second ever European meeting between Bayer Leverkusen and Celtic, with the Germans winning 4-0 on MD2 of this season’s UEFA Europa League.
● Celtic have lost six of their seven away matches in Germany in the UEFA Cup/Europa League (D1), losing most recently in October 2018 against RB Leipzig.
● Bayer Leverkusen have never lost a home UEFA Europa League group stage match in 14 previous games (W11 D3) – the most of any side without losing in the competition’s history.
● No team has forced more high turnovers in the UEFA Europa League this season than Celtic (47) with 10 of those ending in a shot, the most of any team.
● Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby has carried the ball up-field 575m in the UEFA Europa League this season, more than any other non-defender. No player has more assists following a ball carry than Diaby (2).


5.45pm Next we have an interesting game in Group H as Rapid Vienna host West Ham. Unfortunately for West Ham, they couldn’t put this group to bed before the International break as they had to settle for a draw away to Genk. It wasn’t a bad performance, and they actually deserved to win because they finished the game with an xG of 3.06 to 1.35, but it just means they have to win here so they can rest a few players for the final group game. They come into this game with a four point advantage over Dinamo Zagreb so they should top the group, however their final game is against Dinamo Zagreb so it would be nice to put the question to bed here – especially as Rapid Vienna are bottom of the group. Rapid Vienna made The Hammers work hard for their three points when West Ham had home advantage however, West Ham bossed the game but it took until stoppage time to score the second goal. It’s hard to see anything bar another cagey game here – Rapid Vienna will put XI behind the ball as a draw wouldn’t be a bad result for them – they could sneak into third on the final matchday then.

After beating Liverpool 3-2 before the International break, West Ham would have been bitterly disappointed to lose 1-0 to Wolves at the weekend. They are still sitting in the top four however, and they have a three point advantage over Arsenal in fifth. Given all the troubles of Manchester United, perhaps West Ham can actually dream of Champions League football. They didn’t create much at the weekend however, and their performance must improve here. I feel they will get the job done, but it won’t be pretty and they’ll have to grind out a win. I’m expect Rapid Vienna to put XI behind the ball, and West Ham will have to work hard for their chances. I’m surprised to see under 2.5 goals priced so high at 2.26, and that looks cracking value. I would be surprised if we had an open game here.

The Ultra Says:
Three points win Under 2.5 goals at 2.26 with BETDAQ Exchange.

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● SK Rapid Wien’s only previous European game against West Ham was on MD2 of this season’s UEFA Europa League, losing 2-0. They have lost all three games against English sides in the competition, also losing twice to Arsenal in 2020-21.
● Excluding qualifiers, English teams are unbeaten in their last 27 European matches against Austrian sides (W22 D5) since Arsenal lost 1-0 to FK Austria Wien in the 1991-92 European Cup.
● This is SK Rapid Wien’s 300th match in European competition – including qualifiers, they are the first Austrian side to reach that milestone.
● West Ham United are unbeaten in their four UEFA Europa League matches this season (W3 D1) – they last had a longer run in major UEFA European competition between March 1965 and March 1966, a run of nine that included winning the 1965 Cup Winners’ Cup final.
● Saïd Benrahma has scored three goals in two UEFA Europa League starts this season for West Ham – the last Hammers player to score more in a single major UEFA European season was David Cross in 1980-81 (six in the Cup Winners’ Cup).


8pm This a massive game in Group A! Lyon have won all four of their games and they are certain of top spot, but everything is to play for under them. Rangers and Sparta Prague are locked together on four points, and you’d probably have to say that this is a must win game for Rangers as they have to play Lyon away in their final game. It’s likely Lyon will choose to rest some players, but this is a must win game for Rangers nevertheless. You would also assume that Lyon beat Brondby who sit in last with two points, that would mean at least a draw here would likely see Rangers in the Europa Conference League if Sparta Prague finish second. With home advantage, this is a massive game for Rangers. Obviously the club have been through a lot lately with Steven Gerard moving to Aston Villa, however they have got in a decent manager in Giovanni van Bronckhorst. He has been in the running for a couple of bigger jobs than Rangers to be honest, and the fans won’t be unhappy with that appointment.

Rangers have had a few draws domestically recently, but they are still four points ahead of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership. They haven’t had a good run in this competition, and started with two losses – possibly most importantly a 1-0 loss to Sparta Prague when they were away. Their draw against Brondby will probably be the result to stop them staying in this competition if they have to settle for the Europa Conference League. They should have won the game as they created more, but Sparta Prague could also only draw with Brondby away from home. I have to say I’m expecting a very close game here, and I was surprised to see Rangers odds on when I clicked into the market. Under 2.5 goals is a tempting bet given it’s hard to see anything bar a very cagey game here, but the Rangers lay at odds on feels better value to me.

The Ultra Says:
Two points lay (liability) Rangers to beat Sparta Prague at 1.8 with BETDAQ Exchange.

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● The last time Rangers hosted Sparta Prague for a European match, they won 2-1 in extra-time in the European Cup in October 1991 thanks to a brace from Stuart McCall.
● Sparta Prague have won six of their last seven UEFA European matches against Scottish opposition (D1), beating Airdrieonians (x2), Heart of Midlothian, Celtic (x2) and Rangers.
● Including qualifiers, Rangers have only won two of their last 10 European matches (D3 L5), having won nine of their previous 11 beforehand (D2).
● Sparta Prague have only won three of their last 13 UEFA Europa League matches (D2 L8) but all three have been against Scottish opponents – two against Celtic in November 2020 and once against Rangers on MD2 this season.
● Only three players – Munas Dubbur (17), Bruno Fernandes (16) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (14) – have scored more UEFA Europa League goals since the start of the 2018-19 campaign than Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos (11).


8pm We finish the evening with Leicester hosting Legia Warsaw in Group C. This is going to be one of the most entertaining groups as everyone is in with a chance of finishing first, never mind just getting through. Napoli currently top the group with seven points, we have Legia Warsaw in second on six, Leicester on five and then Sparta Moscow bottom on four. Leicester have had to settle for two draws in their home games so far in the tournament, however if you remember they were playing pretty poor football towards the start of the season. They have improved since, although I know they were played off the park by Chelsea at the weekend – Chelsea have been excellent this season though. Leicester have to travel to play Napoli in their final fixture in this group, so that pretty much makes this game a must win game for them. Obviously there is a huge gulf in class here, and the market is fully expecting an easy home win with Leicester trading 1.19 at the time of writing.

I expect Leicester to get the job done, but I don’t feel they should be that short! I wouldn’t even include them in a Multiple at those odds. Legia Warsaw picked up a 1-0 win away to Sparta Moscow, and then they beat Leicester 1-0 when they had home advantage in September. That was at a time when Leicester weren’t playing well and of course it was a big shock, but even so it just highlights this won’t be an easy nights work for Leicester. With Leicester so short in the match odds market, I feel that offers some value in the handicap markets. Legia Warsaw are worth backing at 1.63 with a 2.5 goal handicap in my opinion – I expect Leicester to win, but Legia Warsaw will put XI men behind the ball here and make things tough for Leicester. They can keep the score line respectable.

The Ultra Says:
Two points win Legia Warsaw +2.5 goals to beat Leicester at 1.63 with BETDAQ Exchange.

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● This is Leicester’s second European match against Legia Warsaw and Polish opposition in general, losing 1-0 on MD2 of this season’s UEFA Europa League.
● This is Legia Warsaw’s first away UEFA European match in England since November 1995, when they drew 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers in the Champions League group stages.
● Leicester have only lost two of their 15 home matches in European football (W8 D5), drawing both matches in this season’s UEFA Europa League against Napoli and Spartak Moscow.
● Legia Warsaw have never lost away in England in major UEFA European football (D2), drawing with Manchester United in 1991 and Blackburn Rovers in 1995. They are one of only seven teams to play more than once away in England not lose along with FK Krasnodar, KAA Gent, Metalist Kharkiv, Torpedo Moscow, Astra Giurgiu and Hearts (all two games).
● Legia Warsaw have faced 97 shots in the UEFA Europa League this season, 20 more than any other side. Despite that, six teams have conceded more goals than the Polish outfit (7).