Go for goals in Spain

Ben Coley previews tonight's Europa League games and expects goals at the Mestalla where Valencia host Swansea.

Last Updated: 19/09/13 at 18:33 Post Comment

Swansea should play their part in another free-scoring game

Swansea should play their part in another free-scoring game

Swansea's trip to Valencia is the pick of the first round of Europa League group stage matches and it's one the hosts are odds-on to win.

The Valencia of old would've looked a fine punting proposition at 5/6 but the loss of key players - notably goal-machine Roberto Soldado who now plies his trade with Tottenham - looks set to hurt their quest for European glory.

Already, they've struggled in La Liga and Swansea boss Michael Laudrup has been swift to underline the problems the Spanish side face.

"All of the pressure is on Valencia," Laudrup declared in an interview with thisissouthwales.

"They have not had a good start to the season and they have a tough game against Sevilla coming up at the weekend.

"Their crowd are not like our fans.

"It's like the theatre over there.

"They come in to the stadium, sit down and, if the team play well, they applaud. But if the team do not play well, they boo.

"Valencia have been one of the top clubs in Spain for a number of years and the fans will feel they are nearly the same as Real Madrid or Barcelona - they are used to playing in the Champions League.

"But now they play Swansea in the Europa League, so there is a lot of pressure on them. We have to try to take advantage of that."

Swansea's start to the season hasn't been flawless but I was particularly impressed with the way they fought back to draw with Liverpool on Monday night, and this is a competition they're taking very seriously.

Unfortunately, former Valencia player Pablo Hernandez will miss out on a return to the Mestalla through a hamstring injury but Wilfried Bony is fit and already looks to be forming a solid relationship with Michu.

No fewer than six members of Laudrup's squad have experience of playing in La Liga so this European adventure shouldn't be totally alien, and what's clear to me is that they've nothing to fear.

I certainly expect them to have a go and in that spirit like the look of over 2.5 goals at 10/11.

Valencia still carry an attacking threat through Helder Postiga while Ricardo Costa, 11/1 to score at any time, has found the net twice already this season.

Their last three games have featured a total of 13 goals, with more than two in each of them, and this has the makings of a more entertaining affair than we're perhaps used to at this stage of the competition.

Swansea showed yet again on Monday that their possession football creates plenty of chances and with three of their four Europa League qualifying games having provided over two goals, it's easy to argue we should be looking at 4/7.

Tromso are faced with the task of visiting Spurs and the notoriously poor-travelling Norwegians will surely see this as a damage limitation exercise.

It's hard to find a positive angle into the game bar a Spurs win to nil, which is priced up at a prohibitive 4/6 and while that's far from a bad price, I'm in no rush to get involved.

Wigan are the other English side involved but they've more pressing concerns than a fanciful tilt at the Europa League given a modest start to life in the npower Championship, particularly on their travels.

The loss of Roberto Martinez, James McCarthy and Arouna Kone to Everton might've boosted the club's finances but those called in to replace the latter pair don't set the pulse racing.

It's with that in mind that I'm surprised we can have upwards of 6/4 about Zulte Waregem beating Wigan on their own patch.

The Belgian outfit - who finished second in their domestic league last year - beat Anderlecht in their last home game and have the likes of Thorgan Hazard, younger brother of Eden, among their ranks.

Surely they're a level above Wigan and are more likely to take this competition seriously so at 13/8 I'm going to pay to find out.


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