Live on ESPN, Five & Ch 5: Thu 18.00: Liverpool (2/5, Betdaq) should see off Sparta Prague while Rangers face an uphill struggle in Lisbon.
Liverpool’s goalless draw against Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic may have been uninspiring but it nevertheless puts the Reds in the driving seat in terms of qualification for the next round of the Europa League. Kenny Dalglish’s side are just 2/9 with Totesport to progress and 2/5 courtesy of to get the better of their opponents in the second leg at Anfield and both of those bets look pretty safe.
Chances were few and far between at both ends in the pair’s first meeting and on home soil, Liverpool should be able to restrict Sparta to keep a clean sheet once more. They’re worth considering at 11/10 (888Sport) to win ‘to nil’ then, especially as the price for a straightforward Reds triumph is pretty short.
Also available at 11/10, this time in Paddy Power’s handicap betting where Daglish’s charges start from a goal behind, is a home victory by at least two clear goals and more specifically Ladbrokes quote odds of 5/1 for Liverpool to notch twice without reply.
Steven Gerrard missed the first leg in Prague but should be included for this one and Betfred make him 5/1 to mark his return by breaking the deadlock. Meanwhile, in-form midfielder Raul Mereiles, who has struck five times in his last seven is 6/1 (William Hill) to strike first and the duo are 8/5 (bet365) and 2/1 (Stan James) respectively, to score at any stage.
Sporting Lisbon bagged an away goal at Ibrox, securing themselves a 1-1 draw with Rangers and that result should smooth their path to the next round. The Portuguese outfit are 1/3 with William Hill to get through and need either a victory or a goalless draw to progress in 90 minutes but with home advantage they should get the better of a ‘Gers outfit still reeling from a heavy Old Firm derby defeat on Sunday.
Sporting have plenty of quality in their ranks while Walter Smith’s charges have won just once in 17 European games and have found the net just once in their last four away games in Europe. Admittedly, the hosts are hardly in brilliant form and Rangers won 2-0 in the Estadio Jose Alvalade in 2008 but that was a much stronger ‘Gers side, one that reached the final that season, and they shouldn’t have enough on this occasion to trouble Sporting Lisbon, who are big enough at a tasty 4/6 with Betfred to warrant an interest.
Thursday 24 February:
Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Metalist Kharkiv (18:00)
Liverpool v AC Sparta Praha (18:00)
PSV Eindhoven v Lille OSC (18:00)
Spartak Moscow v FC Basel (18:00)
Sporting CP v Rangers (18:00)
Zenit Saint-Petersburg v BSC Young Boys (18:00)
Ajax v Anderlecht (20:05)
Dynamo Kyiv v Besiktas JK (20:05)
FC Twente v Rubin Kazan (20:05)
Manchester City v Aris Thessaloniki (20:05)
Paris Saint-Germain v FC BATE Borisov (20:05)
Sporting de Braga v Lech Poznan (20:05)
VfB Stuttgart v Benfica (20:05)
Villarreal v Napoli (20:05)