Sparta Prague v Southampton – Generali Arena at 18:00 live on BT Sport 3
My latest preview focuses on Thursday’s Europa League game between Sparta Prague and Southampton in Group K. A win for the home side would take them through to the knockout stages of the competition and they look good value when backed on the Asian Handicap market.
Sparta take on Southampton for the 2nd time in the Europa League this campaign and they will be hoping for a better result on this occasion!
Back in September the home side lost 3-0 at St Mary’s, although since then they’ve won all of their European fixtures.
An impressive 3-1 victory over Inter Milan and wins both at home and away to Israeli champions Hapoel Beer Sheva have put Sparta in an excellent position to qualify, as they’re currently top of Group K.
David Lafata has scored 5 goals in his last 4 games across all competitions and he’ll pose a major threat to the Saints’ defence, which has been breached in 3 out of their last 4 matches (across all competitions).
Defensively, Sparta look a lot more solid than their opponents and they’ve won their last 4 home games without conceding a single goal.
The home team are also a good attacking side and have averaged 2.5 goals per home league game this season. In addition, Sparta are unbeaten at the Generali Arena in Europe this campaign. Virgil van Dijk will certainly have his work cut out at the heart of the Saints’ defence!
Sparta also have the added advantage of previous European experience, unlike Claude Puel’s men. Last season Sparta made it through to the quarter-finals of the competition, knocking out Russian side Krasnodar and Italy’s Lazio.
Last weekend they beat Karviná 3-0 at home and will come into this game full of confidence, despite their 3-0 defeat against Southampton in the reverse fixture.
This is Southampton’s first ever European group-stage campaign and they’re also in a good position to qualify for the knockouts. They’re currently 2nd in the group, just 2 points behind Sparta, but have a 3 point cushion ahead of Hapoel Beer Sheva.
The visitors beat Sparta relatively easily last time round, with Charlie Austin scoring a brace and Jay Rodriguez netting a 3rd goal. However, on this occasion I believe the Saints will have a much tougher game on their hands.
In their last Europa League game, Southampton beat Inter Milan 2-1 at St Mary’s, but they haven’t been able to produce the same consistency as Sparta throughout this competition.
Southampton have particularly struggled away from home. They drew 0-0 away at Hapoel and lost 1-0 at Inter, although they were unlucky not to come away with a draw in Italy.
The Saints’ problems on the road are a common theme across all competitions. The visitors’ have won just once all season away from home, which was a 3-0 victory against West Ham.
Southampton have also failed to score a goal on their travels so far in this competition.
Claude Puel’s side have been struggling for form of late and Southampton have won just 2 of their last 7 games played across all competitions.
Last weekend they drew 0-0 at home to Liverpool in the Premier League.
Asian Handicap Prices
Despite their defeat at St Mary’s in the reverse fixture, I am expecting Sparta to get the job done and progress to the knockout stages of the competition.
Sparta have looked impressive in the Europa League since their blip against the Saints and have performed particularly well at home.
The home side therefore look great value +0.25 at 2.15 on the Asian Handicap market and I can only assume the price is as big as it is, due to the result of the reverse fixture.
If Sparta can only manage a draw there is still profit to be had – I really can’t see the home side losing.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Sparta Prague +0.25 at 2.15
Prices correct at time of writing.
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