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Europa League tips: Best bets for Thursday’s Last 16 second legs

21 Feb | BY Rob Eddy | MIN READ TIME |
Europa League tips: Best bets for Thursday’s Last 16 second legs

Our best bets for Thursday's action include wins for two Ligue 1 sides as the Last 16 comes to a close.

Thursday night sees the second legs of the Europa League play-offs take centre stage, with some captivating ties finely poised for what looks to be a dramatic evening of action.

While Sporting and AC Milan may have done enough in the first leg to qualify for the next round, some big names still have work to do, with the likes of Marseille, Braga and Roma requiring big performances to ensure progression.

Below are our best bets for Thursday’s matches, with at least one Champions League dropout potentially falling at the first hurdle.

Best Bets

Braga to win by one goal /
Marseille to win and both teams to score /
Rennes to win /

Qarabag v Braga (5.45)

Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag had a night to remember in the first leg in Braga, winning 4-2 to put Gurban Gurbanov’s men within touching distance of their best ever European campaign.

They qualified from the knockout stages in style from Group H, thumping rivals Molde 5-1 to clinch the final qualification spot, and go into the second leg on a run of just one defeat in their last 16 games in all competitions.

Their lack of European pedigree – this round being the furthest they have ever gone in any European competition – could be a sticking point for Qarabag, with Braga more than familiar with the Europa League in particular.

They have been involved in this competition almost every year since 2010, in which they lost the final to Porto, and Artur Jorge’s side did pepper the Qarabag goal throughout the first leg, having 16 attempts in total.

Expect the Portuguese outfit to go all out on Thursday night and, with five wins in their last eight games in all competitions, they could very well grab the victory. However, it may not be enough to qualify for the next round, with none of those recent wins having been by more than a one-goal margin .

Marseille v Shakhtar Donetsk (8.00)

Marseille twice blew a one-goal lead in the 2-2 draw in the first leg and the 1-0 defeat to Brest at the weekend put the final nail in the coffin for Gennaro Gattuso’s tenure at the club, with the Italian sacked on Monday.

Jean-Louis Gasset takes over at the helm of Marseille, and the new manager bounce may be just what the Olympians need in order to get past their Ukrainian opponents, with Gasset needing to put an end to Marseille’s poor run of seven games without a win.

Shakhtar have been playing friendlies outside of European competition since December, and may not be able to contend with the jump in class, with Marseille expected to come out on top in a close encounter.

Rennes v AC Milan (5.45)

Milan cruised to a 3-0 victory in the first leg, and may believe that their job is already done going into the return fixture in Rennes.

However, a 4-2 defeat to Serie A minnows Monza at the weekend does highlight a fragility to the Italians, who have been plagued by injury issues of late.

This may provide an opening for Rennes, whose defeat in the first leg remains their only loss across their last 10 games and who have not lost at home in 2024.

Expect the French side to cause plenty of issues for Milan, although a three-goal deficit may be too steep of a mountain to overcome.

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