Side with the South Americans
Valencia were soundly beaten by Atletico Madrid in last week’s Europa League semi-final first leg but a late goal in the capital gave them some hope ahead of Thursday’s return fixture.
Madrid will now only take a two-goal lead to the Mestalla after Ricardo Costa made it 4-2 with his injury-time strike.
While Madrid remain firm favourites to reach next month’s final in Bucharest, the tie is far from over, particularly with two away goals in the bank. They will also go into this one knowing they have not lost any of their last 21 home games in this competition.
Valencia will have little choice but to go for it but the way they were picked apart in the first leg suggests they have a big task keeping their visitors out.
The good news for Valencia is they have managed to do so twice in the Spanish league this season, while going forward they have been scoring plenty of late.
In each of their last three home games they’ve banged in four goals, while they also scored three here against Bayer Leverkusen and seven against Genk in the Champions League earlier in the season, not to mention four against PSV in this competition.
In short, we’re expecting goals but with the layers once again thinking along the same lines and keeping prices low in their over 2.5 and 3.5 goal markets, we’re going to head to the anytime scorer markets in search of profit.
For Valencia, Jonas is the man we’re happy to side with a what appears to be a decent price of 5/2.
He’s netted 16 times in 49 apperances this season, while his recent form is good as he’s netted four times in the last four games, a run which includes one in last week’s first leg and another at the weekend against Real Betis.
The Brazilian looks a decent alternative to his better-known colleague Roberto Soldado, who is odds-on in places.
We’re not going to stop there though.
With Atletico looking more than capable of punishing Valencia at the back, we can’t resist backing Falcao to score for them.
The Colombian has a wonderful record in the Europa League, finishing as its top scorer last season with 17, while this term he’s bagged 10 making him the joint leader in the scoring charts. During the two-year period, he averages exactly a goal a game.
Throw in the fact that he’s found the target 22 times in 30 league games and you begin to wonder why he’s available at 2/1 to net here.
Like Jonas, Falcao has four in his last four outings and scored twice in the first leg.
With his side in good form having won six of their last eight in all competitions, the price looks too big to us.
The other semi-final looks more evenly poised – Sporting Lisbon taking a 2-1 advantage into the second leg away to Athletic Bilbao.
Bilbao, who famously knocked Manchester United out in the last 16, are a best of 8/11 to qualify, which looks about right.
Sporting’s recent away record in Europe is not great but of course they don’t have to win the match to reach the final.
Athletic have impressed in this competition but such has been their stuttering domestic form – they are only sixth in the Primera Division – you can’t help but fear they will throw in one of their shockers in Europe eventually.
We’ll swerve this one and keep our fingers crossed for a goal feast on the east coast where a goal for either Jonas or Falcao will ensure a profit.