The Europa League group stage kicks off this Thursday. What are we expecting from Southampton versus Sparta Prague? Well, I expect some profit from this Asian Handicap Betting Preview with the English side going in as the favourites.
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Considering Southampton are the favourites, their league form has not been great. The Saints are 18th in the table and have only secured two points from four matches. Claude Puel’s last fixture ended in a 2-1 defeat away to Arsenal; Santi Cazorla scoring the winner from the spot-kick in the 90th minute.
The departure of Ronald Koeman has played it’s part, along with Sadio Mane. However, they will be hoping summer signings come good soon as both Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg have not put the Southampton faithful on the edge of their seat yet.
Last season, Puel’s side featured in the Europa League, but it was a short-lived trip. Southampton failed to beat FC Midtjylland over two leg,s losing 2-1 on aggregate in qualifying, after a win against Vitesse in the previous round.
Three players are out injured for the Saints, including summer signing Sofiane Boufal. However, with the squad at their disposal you would have to think that the hosts can deliver on Thursday night and get their European challenge off to a good start.
Sparta Prague, meanwhile, have had a solid start to their league campaign. Zdenek Scasny’s team sit second in the Czech Liga after six games, and remain unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions. Scasny’s last fixture ended in a 2-2 draw at home to Mlada Boleslav; David Lafata scoring his third goal of the campaign.
When it comes to Thursday, fans will recognise one familiar face in former Arsenal man Tomas Rosicky who made his return to his former club in August. On top of this, Iron Sparta will be hoping Lafata turns up once again as well as Borek Dockal.
To be where they are now in the Europa League, Sparta had to face SønderjyskE over two legs beating them 3-2 on aggregate. Last season, they made the quarter-finals, knocked out by Villarreal over two legs.
In Europa League, Sparta Prague have only lost two of their last ten away games, winning three of their last five.
There are no injuries or suspensions for the visitors for this match-up. The only issue is the air miles they have to travel. But then again it is early on in the season, so I do not think this will have a massive influence.
These two sides have never faced one another. Against English opposition, Sparta Prague have only won three times out of a possible 20 matches. Their last win on English soil back in 1983.
The group these teams are in is quite difficult, along with Inter Milan, so three points is a must. Sparta Prague are a difficult side to beat and should not be overlooked. Yet, I cannot see Southampton losing, but then again their recent form is not doing me any favours. I’m going Unders in this one.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 2.5 goals @ 1.90 with Pinnacle
Prices correct at time of writing.