Olympique de Marseille preview

Olympique de Marseille

V

Stade Vélodrome

08/03/2018 | 8:05 pm

Athletic Bilbao

V

Stade Vélodrome

08/03/2018 | 8:05 pm

In a sentence: Marseille welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Stade Velodrome on Thursday, for the first leg of their Europa League knockout tie.

Last time: The teams met in the knockout stages of the same competition the year before last, with Athletic going through to the next round 2-1 on aggregate.

This time: Marseille are the 19/20 favourites for the win, while Bilbao are 7/2 and the draw is 13/5.

You might remember: That Europa League clash. Aritz Aduriz gave the Basque side a 1-0 win in France in the first leg, before Michy Batshuayi pulled Marseille level in the return. A late goal from Sabin Merino was enough to take Bilbao into the last 16.

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Betting Tips & Predictions

Marseille’s Stade Velodrome will be bouncing for the visit of Athletic Bilbao in the last 16 of the Europa League

This tie is quite a close one to call ahead of this first leg, although Marseille’s form this season means they edge it in the betting over Athletic Bilbao. Les Phoceens are currently in the Champions League places in Ligue 1, while Bilbao are languishing down in 14th in La Liga.

Marseille are 19/20 for the win, and come into this came on the back of some controversy last time out. Captain Dimitri Payet failed to return the ball to Nantes after the ball had been played out for an injury, which led to a 95th minute equaliser for Florian Thauvin. Boss Garcia will be keen for a performance that puts those criticisms firmly on the back seat.

Athletic are 7/2 to take a victory back to Basque Country with them. Jose Angel Ziganda’s side fell to another defeat at the weekend, losing 2-0 at Sevilla. It’s looking highly unlikely they’ll qualify for European football next season, which could make them a dangerous animal in the Europa League if they focus their efforts on the competition.

The draw is 13/5, and could be worth a punt considering both clubs have drawn more games than they would’ve liked this season. Despite their lowly position in La Liga, there are only actually four sides that have lost fewer games than Bilbao. As those teams occupy the top four places, it shows that Athletic are tough to beat, with only one team drawing more games than their 11.

After that last gasp goal at the weekend, Thauvin is 5/1 to break the deadlock in this one, while former West Ham man Payet is 8/1 for the same bet. Aduriz looks the likeliest to open the scoring for the visitors, and he’s priced at 7/1 to do just that.

Match Summary

1

Look out for:

A cagey opening. There’s no doubt that neither side will want to cede an early advantage in this tie. Bearing that in mind, the first half is likely to be a tight affair, before things open up a little in the second period. It’s 5/4 for the second half to be the highest scoring.

2

We fancy:

Under 2.5 goals at 4/5. The odds on this bet aren’t huge, but you can almost double your money if this game does indeed turn out to be the close encounter that it’s expected to be. The 1-1 draw is available at 1-1, while a 1-0 home win is the same price.

3

It’s a long shot, but:

Aduriz to score the only goal of the game is 45/1. It’d be a case of lightning striking twice if this happens, after his winner at the Stade Velodrome just over two years ago. If anyone’s going to settle a close encounter in Bilbao’s favour though, it’s likely to be Aduriz.

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Written by Oli Coates

Oli Coates is a huge sports fan, particularly football and especially Manchester United, who follows sports betting closely and has written extensively on the market. An experienced writer, Oli has covered everything from travel to how to care for your pets!