Football fans are in for a treat on Thursday night with big games taking place in England and Europe. Brighton head to Newcastle in the Premier League with both teams eyeing a place in continental competitions next season while Sheffield Wednesday need a miracle at home to Peterborough in the League One play-off semi-finals with the Posh 4-0 up from the first-leg.
Meanwhile, we’ll find out the makeup of this seasons Europa League and Europa Conference League finals with the second leg semi-finals down for decision in both competitions this evening.
Bar One Racing broadcaster Kieran Burke gives us an overview of what’s to come tonight.
Newcastle v Brighton – 7.30, Sky Sports Main.
Having effectively ended Arsenal’s title hopes on Sunday, Brighton now head to St.James’ Park hoping to put a dent in Newcastle’s Champions League dream while further enhancing their hopes of a place in next season’s Europa League.
Now winless in two, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen Newcastle legs wobble with the top four finish line in sight. Tonight marks the first of two consecutive home matches against teams both fighting for big prizes with next Monday’s opponents Leicester scrapping for their lives while a trip to Stamford Bridge on the final day is not an easy prospect even with Chelsea’s struggles this season in mind. Building back up some much needed momentum after the home defeat to Arsenal and last week’s dramatic draw at Leeds will be crucial if the Geordies are to qualify for Europe’s elite competition.
Only Arsenal and Liverpool have won at St.James’ this season but Brighton won’t be fazed by that stat given they hold the fourth best away record in the league (P17, W8, D4, L5). However, Brighton were beaten on their most recent visit to Newcastle while they’ve lost two of their last four on the road (Forest & Spurs).
Both teams have been involved in some high scoring encounters of late with both Newcastle and Brighton featuring in games with over 2.5 goals in four of their last five matches.
With both teams gunning down some big prizes this should be a good watch.
BEST BET: BTTS (1/2).
Sheffield Wednesday v Peterborough – 8.00, Sky Sports Football
This League One play-off semi-final is surely finished as a contest with Peterborough leading 4-0 from the first leg. However, Sheffield Wednesday have been on an incredible run of form at home with the Owls going unbeaten in their last 23 matches at Hillsborough.
While one of the greatest comebacks in EFL play-off history is unlikely, Wednesday sending home their supporters with some sort of positivity for next season is very possible.
Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday (15/20)
Bayer Leverkusen v Roma – 8.00, BT Sport 3.
Can the “Special One” lead Roma to consecutive European finals with last season’s Conference League winners just 90 minutes away from a place in the Europa League final. Edoardo Bove’s second-half goal was enough to give the Italian’s an all important first-leg win but they’ll have to banish some ghosts of previous adventures in Germany if they are to book their ticket for Budapest’s Puskás Aréna on 31 May.
Roma have lost on five of their last six visits to Germany but they certainly have the tactical genius required to overcome such a stat and will be buoyed further by the fact that they have won ten of their last 11 European ties following a 1-0 success in the first leg at home.
While tonight’s hosts have a strong recent record at home, winning five of their last seven at BayArena, it’s difficult to back against Jose Mourinho in a situation like this. The Portuguese manager will thrive among the hostility tonight and it will take a serious effort to down his determined group of players who clearly idolise their charismatic boss.
BEST BET: Roma to qualify (1/2)
Sevilla v Juventus – 8.00, BT Sport 2
Sevilla will still be feeling hard done by after Juventus scored a late equaliser in added on time in additional time in Turin last Thursday. Federico Gatti’s 97th minute goal could prove crucial for the Italian’s but they’ll have to do what no team has managed before in this competition, dump Sevilla out of the Europa League at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.
The Spaniard’s have never lost a two-legged tie in the Europa League from nine previous ties when playing a knockout match at home in the second-leg. In fact, Sevilla have won 24 of their last 27 games in the competition played at this venue and warmed up for this assignment with a comfortable 3-0 win away to Valladolid in La Liga at the weekend.
Juventus also won domestically at the weekend but it’s hard to get away from that stunning stat that anytime Sevilla have reached the quarter-finals of this competition they’ve gone on to lift the trophy and there’s a very good chance they can keep that trend going this season.
BEST BET: Sevilla to qualify (13/20)
Basel v Fiorentina – 8.00, BT Sport Extra.
Basel stunned Fiorentina in their own back yard last week with a 2-1 win which leaves the Swiss side on the cusp of making history by becoming the first team from Switzerland to qualify for a major European final.
Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Italiano was reportedly left fuming after the match and will be demanding a response from his players with Conference League success the only available route into Europe next season for the Italian side who sit 8th in Serie A.
A 2-0 win against Udinese at the weekend was a good way to warm up for this trip to Switzerland with Fiorentina enjoying a rich record against Swiss opposition in Europe. The Italian’s are unbeaten on their last five trips to the country (W3D2) and most notably they’ve scored at least twice in all of those games, something they will need to do again tonight.
Despite making 9 changes at the weekend, a 6-1 domestic defeat was far from ideal preparation for Basel ahead of this tie but they’ll be hoping their strong European home record can see them over the line here. Basel have lost just three of their last 23 home European matches (W17, D3) while they’ve progressed in 14 of the last 15 Euro ties in which they won the first leg away from home.
Prediction: BTTS (4/5)
AZ Alkmaar v West Ham – 8.00, VM2
West Ham had to work hard for last week’s come from behind win in the first leg and the hard work is unlikely to stop their with AZ set to be backed by a passionate home crowd. Alkmaar hammered Emmen 5-1 at this venue in their most recent league game and have won all 8 matches played here in this competition so far this season.
Their record against English team on Dutch soil is impressive also (W2, D5, L1) with their sole defeat against English sides in Holland coming against none other than a David Moyes led Everton in 2007/08.
The West Ham boss rested a number of key players as the Iron’s last a London derby 2-0 against Brentford on Sunday to take their recent run of form to four defeats from their last six. The decision to effectively write off recent league games in order to focus on this competition will of course be hailed as the right one should West Ham maintain their 100% record of progressing through two-leeged Euro ties after winning the first leg at home (11/11).
However, the Hammers are not exactly purring presently whereas Az have enjoyed a strong league campaign and have every chance of reaching their first major European final in 42 years with a strong performance at home tonight.
Prediction: AZ Alkmaar (8/5)