EVERTON -AEK ATHENS
I am going to give Everton another chance, despite their failure to hold onto a lead for us at Craven Cottage on Sunday. They will obviously have to give their league matches priority, but if they have any european ambitions at all and I am fairly certain that David Moyes does, then in a tough looking group and with difficult looking road trips ahead in this group, they need the three points tonight. As much as anything else, it would give a much need boost to their confidence, which has been brittle in the EPL.
They scored four here in the Europa league game with Olumouc, when they were able to forget their league woes and have also won their only home start since, with a come from behind win over Wigan. Hosts have big injury problems, but could name a line up of Howard; Gosling, Yobo, Distin, Baines; Osman, Rodwell, Fellaini, Pienaar; Cahill; Saha.
That still contains an awful lot of quality and should be too strong for an AEK team who always struggle on the road in europe. The visitors will be without the suspended Daniel Majstorovic and striker Rafik Djebbour, who has fallen out with the coach, they will come with their usual defensive mindset and this should allow the Toffees to get plenty of the ball and build up some rhythm. Strong home selection for me.
7.5 points Everton -1 ball 2.0 asian line.
BENFICA - BATE BORISOV
Hosts are on fire at the moment and scoring for fun, with twelve goals (!) in their last two league starts. However, they might be happy with a win of any sort tonight, the minimal margin might do and if BATE can rediscover the form they showed in last season's Champions League, where they performed heroically in the "group of death" containing Juventus, St Petersburgh and Real Madrid,even that might be beyond them .
That visiting squad has broken up a little as you might expect, but seven of them are current Belarus internationals, a nation who have impressed in recent starts, including the entire back line, who can expect to be busy tonight. They are unlikely to be distracted by the league, where they hold a ten point lead already and are a class ahead of the pack, two thirds into their season they should be at their physical peak and are capable of causing a surprise and certainly of keeping this close.
Benfica HAVE to challenge for their domestic title this season, it is five years since they even finished in the top two and for this massive club, that is simply not good enough. They were big spenders in the summer again and every focus is on a championship push, I am not sure exactly how motivated they will be for a big run in the Europa League, keeper Quim and Pablo Aimar are out tonight. The visitors get a big handicap start and they would have to lose by three for us to lose full stakes, providing they do not concede ultra early, that seems unlikely.
7 points BATE +1.75 goals 1.98 asian line.