Leipzig v Atalanta
Leipzig are playing with real confidence at the moment and a 4-1 win over Dortmund at the weekend leaves them with a W11-D3-L1 record in 2022, as the sole loss came in a narrow defeat away at Bayern. Goals haven’t been in short supply as they’ve scored at least twice in 12 of the 15 games, and bagged at least four goals on five occasions.
Atalanta head into this fixture off the back of a 3-1 defeat to Napoli, leaving their prospects of a top-four finish in tatters. They will however take confidence from their last 16 triumph over German outfit Bayer Leverkusen, winning both legs, though they’ve hardly impressed in Europe this term as they took just two points across four encounters with Man Utd and Villarreal in the Champions League group stages.
Atalanta have long been a high-scoring team under Gian Piero Gasperini and it would be no surprise if this was another pulsating encounter, especially given eight of Leipzig’s last 11 matches have seen at least four goals. In fact, all eight of Leipzig’s European matches this season have featured at least three goals, while seven of these saw a minimum of four. Nine of Atalanta’s past 11 European matches have also seen at least three goals, as seven contained a minimum of four.
OVER 2.5 GOALS
West Ham v Lyon
Lyon may only have lost three of 18 matches since early December, though with eight draws across this period, they’ve been far from impressive and are down in ninth place domestically. A late winner over bottom-half outfit Angers this weekend was a first victory in four outings, so it’s understandable that West Ham are favourites to take a first-leg lead.
David Moyes’ men may only be W5-D2-L4 across their last 11 fixtures, though it’s noticeable that all four defeats came away from home. On home turf, the Hammers have won five of six unbeaten games since the start of February, though they haven’t wiped the floor with anybody with each victory coming by a single goal (excluding the additional strike they added during extra time against Sevilla).
This doesn’t look like being a particularly high-scoring affair. Lyon have seen under 2.5 goals in 13 of their last 17 matches, including six of seven away games over this period as they kept four clean sheets. Six of West Ham’s eight Europa League games this term have also seen a maximum of two goals, with the exceptions both against KRC Genk, as the last three each saw a single goal over 90 minutes.
UNDER 2.5 GOALS
Frankfurt v Barcelona
The Xavi revolution is gathering steam as Barcelona are now unbeaten over 90 minutes in 21 appearances stretching back into December, winning 13 of these. This spell did include extra-time defeats to Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup and Copa del Rey respectively back in January, but there’s been a clear and obvious improvement.
More recently, Barcelona have won eight of their last nine matches, and the goals have been flying in as they’ve scored four times on five occasions. They’ve also tightened up defensively, conceding just a single goal across their past five outings, with their last two outings seeing them bag wins over Real Madrid (4-0) and Sevilla (1-0).
Notably, the Catalans did some great business in the January transfer window as they brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres and Adama Traore from the Premier League, with the former Arsenal striker already bagging nine goals since his arrival. Xavi does have a number of injuries to contend with, most notably Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati, while Dani Alves wasn’t included in their Europa League squad, but his key players are all available and so he should have a strong team on display here.
Frankfurt are unbeaten across their past six outings, though the last three have ended in stalemates and they’re up against it here. They’re not a team that suffers many heavy defeats, with each of their last eight losses finishing either 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 or 3-2, but they are mid-table in the Bundesliga for a reason and the gulf in quality should be exposed on this occasion.
BARCELONA TO WIN
Braga v Rangers
Rangers saw their title hopes take a huge hit at the weekend as Celtic edged them out at Ibrox, leaving them with two defeats from their past three outings as they also went down 2-1 away to Crvena Zvezda. That latter result didn’t prove costly, having won the first leg 3-0, but the Gers need to pick themselves up quickly and get back to winning ways if they’re to claim silverware this season.
Unfortunately for Giovanni van Bronckhorst, star striker Alfredo Morelos was sent home early from international duty and missed the defeat to Celtic, while he was also absent when the Gers suffered a 3-0 defeat in the previous Old Firm derby back in February. An over-reliance on the Colombian is something the club will have to address in the summer, with back up Kemar Roofe not prolific enough to shoulder the attacking burden, though it’s possible Fashion Sakala may get the nod here owing to his pace in behind.
Ryan Kent will be the principal threat for the visitors, but it’s not as though Rangers aren’t without other outlets with Joe Aribo and Aaron Ramsey available. They demonstrated that when they took down Dortmund 6-4 on aggregate in February, with Morelos only bagging one of their goals over the two legs.
Braga are certainly no pushovers and head into this fixture off the back of beating Benfica 3-2, though just a single clean sheet across their past six has to be a concern. Rangers have also struggled to shut their opponents out on their travels with just three clean sheets from their past 10 away days, as these were achieved against fourth-tier side Annan Athletic, as well as St. Johnstone and Dundee – the two bottom sides in the Scottish Premiership and also the two lowest scorers.
Rangers have fared well against Portuguese sides recently, winning three and drawing three in clashes with Braga, Porto and Benfica since 2019/20 – including victories in both encounters with their opponents here. However, their record away in Europe is lacking as they’re W1-D3-L3 since the start of last season. Both teams have scored in seven of their nine away matches in Europe since the 2020/21 knockouts, and with both sides struggling for clean sheets, that appears a probable outcome once more.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
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