A couple of years ago, Lyon was one of the best European teams, capable of making the final stages of the Champions League. Much has changed though and nowadays they have a hard time in even threatening PSG for the lead, with the players transferred during the season break being unlikely to change much. Even so, they have a competitive team and will try to prove it by making a deep run in Europa League, while reaching the podium in the French Ligue 1.
It is far too early to predict how successful they will be in this attempt, because they are still playing in the European competition’s qualifiers while the domestic championship is yet to begin. Much to their credit, they have won back-to-back games and they are just one round away from making the group stage, while scoring a lot of goals over that span. They won both legs against Mlada Boleslav from the Czech Republic and advanced to the next stage of the competition with relative ease.
There are no official games scheduled anytime soon, so by the time they will face Romanians Astra, Lyon can expect to have its best players fit to play. Gourcouff, Bedimo and Fofana are not going to play tonight against Rennes, but even without these players, the hosts have the first chance to claim all three points. The good news is that two of them didn’t participate in the campaign of friendly games and were not a part of the team that won the double legged round against the Czechs.
The visitors don’t have injured or suspended players to worry about, but even if they are at full strength, Rennes don’t have a quality team. Opposing Lyon on the road was always a difficult task and in most cases, the visitors tried to settle for a draw. They were successful in nine matches, while losing eight times and they are still looking for the first victory away from home.
It is very unlikely that Rennes will snap out of their dry spell tonight and earn a rare victory on the road, especially with the visitors using this single striker. Lyon is fighting a war on two fronts, but so far they don’t seem to be tired and have recorded positive results all around. As it is, odds of 1.80 are just good enough to warrant a wager on the home side to kick-start its Ligue 1 campaign with a victory.
This is not the first time that Betis plays in an important European competition and the Spanish team has made deep runs in these tournaments in the past. By contrast, this is the first real chance for Guimaraes to play among the best European clubs and the Portuguese side is highly motivated to advance from Group I. Compared to Lyon and Betis, they are clearly the less experienced team, but neither of these opponents are at the peak of their form.
Another major advantage that the Portuguese have over their opponents is that the French and Spanish teams are not taking the Europa League competition seriously enough. Lyon is mired in a brutal race in its domestic championship and for the first time in many years it is not even among the first three favorites to win the trophy. On one hand, this should motivate them to make a deep run in the European competition because it is unlikely for them to participate again the next season.
The same applies to Betis who is in an even worse situation, struggling in the bottom half of the Primera Division. The fact that they’ve lost to Malaga over the weekend after conceding a third goal in the last minute of overtime is only amplifying their struggles. Three days from now, Barcelona will be visiting Sevilla and the hosts will be huge underdogs once again despite having home pitch advantage.
The prospect of drawing tonight is not that frightful for Betis who has a slim advantage over Guimaraes, so punters should expect a less incisive visiting team. By contrast, the hosts are enjoying a relatively smooth ride in their domestic championship and have made Europa league their main priority for 2013. If they prevail tonight, they will face Rijeka on the road before returning home for the final game against Lyon. In a nutshell, the Portuguese side has a good chance of finishing second in Group I if they win all three points tonight and this is exactly what the host will be aiming for.
Bookmakers have sided with the visiting team, despite the fact that they are clearly in awful form and won just once in the last seven games. As a result, the odds for Guimaraes to win with the cover of an Asian handicap stand at 2.20 with most bookmakers, which is tremendous value. Risk-averse punters could settle for slightly lower odds by betting on the hosts to win or draw.
So after an agonising two month, sorry two week, break (just feels like two months) due to the Euro 2008 qualifiers, the Premier League is back with a bang this weekend and there are some really interesting fixtures to look forward to. Continue reading