Man Utd and Ajax are on course for a Europa League final meeting and the prize will be a lucrative place in next season’s Champions League. But first, they have to see out their semi-final ties. Man Utd are 1-0 up on aggregate after a strong away performance against Celta Vigo in Spain, while Ajax battered Lyon 4-1 and just have to lose by fewer than three goals to make the final. Here we run through both second leg ties to see if there is any value to be found:
Man Utd v Celta Vigo
Man Utd’s win away at Celta Vigo in the last round was a classic Jose Mourinho performance. They were strong and compact and limited Celta Vigo to just two shots on goal, neither of which particularly troubled David De Gea. As has often been the case with Utd this season, they were profligate in front of goal, and matters were not helped by the injury-enforced absence of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but eventually, they found the breakthrough when Marcus Rashford netted with a wonderful strike from a free kick. They will be full of confidence going into the return leg.
For all Celta Vigo’s creativity and endeavor, they struggled to create chances against Mourinho’s side, and the +115 on offer at Bet Stars on a Man Utd clean sheet looks good. Under 2.5 goals is another interesting option at evens with William Hill, or you could double up with Man Utd to win and under 2.5 goals, which is 29/20 at Bet Stars. If you think Utd will win and are feeling more cautious, Man Utd and under 3.5 goals is 17/10, again with Bet Stars. It now looks hard to see anyone but Man Utd winning this competition for the first time. Mourinho has rested players in Premiership games to make this his priority, as he sees it as his best chance of qualifying for the 2017-18 Champions League. They are trading at the 8/13 mark and that looks a good bet if you are prepared to stake a relatively large amount of money.
Lyon v Ajax
The French side were second favourites for this competition after knocking out Roma and Besiktas in previous rounds. They travelled to Amsterdam to face an Ajax team with an average age of 22, and they were expected to get a result to help see them through to the final. But, as we suggested in our previous picks article, Ajax are superb at home and were good value for a win. They duly delivered, beating Lyon 4-1 in a very open game that proved the antithesis to the Celta Vigo v Man Utd match. It was open and exciting, full of chances, just as we have come to expect from Lyon this season. They have their own injury woes, missing forward Alexandre Lacazette among others, and they defended as recklessly as they have throughout this competition. With Lacazette in the side, they might have lost 4-3 and still be in with a chance in this tie. As it was they lost 4-1 and face a huge struggle to qualify.
The sportsbooks have them at 9/2 to qualify for the final, which suggests all hope is not yet lost, and the away goal could help them, but you would expect Ajax to score as Lyon do not really keep clean sheets. That would leave Lyon needing to score at least four to force extra-time, and without Lacazette that is a big ask. It looks as though Ajax are the ones that will contest the final with Man Utd. Still, Lyon should win this second leg tie and they are 7/10 to do so at various green listed bookmaker.