Free football betting tips and odds: Ostersund v Arsenal and Celtic v Zenit Saint Petersburg in the Europa League
February 15 2018, 16:41Football
Callum McGregor scores for Celtic during the Champions League
Thursday's Europa League action includes Arsenal's trip to play Swedish side Ostersund, but our best bet on the night comes in the Celtic match.
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Ostersund v Arsenal (1800 GMT)
After Saturday's 1-0 defeat to rivals Tottenham, Arsenal's best chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League is via the Europa League and we should expect Arsene Wenger's line-up to reflect that fact.
The Gunners face Manchester City twice in five days at the end of the month, including the Carabao Cup final, but their early exit from the FA Cup means that two games with Ostersund come first and Wenger would love to have things wrapped up in time for the second of them, which is three days prior to Wembley.
Sweden's Ostersund showed they shouldn't be taken for granted as they surprisingly topped Group J, which included Athletic Bilbao, but appear to be the weakest group winners and should go no further.
They do come here on the back of an opening win in their defence of the Swedish Cup, which should've helped blow away the cobwebs following two months off, and two of the scorers from that game have been registered to the Europa League squad - on-loan Eritrean midfielder Tesfaldet Tekie and striker Dino Islamovic.
Even celebrity Fulham fan Richard Osman may not recall that the latter was on their books before working his way home via the Netherlands, but the tall striker looks the biggest threat to the visitors on what little we know along with Saman Ghoddos, who has scored at international level for both Sweden and Iran.
Arsenal, though, are expected to respond to their latest setback, something they're used to doing having followed a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United by scoring six against BATE Borisov, and earlier beaten Spurs on the back of a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City.
Working out how to side with them isn't easy, but with Carabao Cup final places up for grabs there's plenty of incentive here and backing them to either score in both halves or cover a one-goal handicap makes some appeal with each quoted at around the 5/4 mark.
It could even pay to go a little further and take 11/4 that Arsenal win with over 3.5 goals scored in the game. Since Christmas they've won 3-2 at Crystal Palace, lost 4-2 at Nottingham Forest, 2-1 at Bournemouth and 3-1 at Swansea so there have been goals in their away games in the main, and while the latter trio of results would ring some alarm bells this is an altogether more straightforward assignment.
The Gunners have won 4-2 (BATE), 4-1 (Galatasaray, Basel) and 3-2 (Ludogorets) away to lesser lights in Europe over the last couple of seasons and this looks a good opportunity for Danny Welbeck to gain some confidence while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is unavailable for selection and with Alexandre Lacazette cruelly sidelined.
Eddie Nketiah made a name for himself in the Carabao Cup late last year and impressed with a hat-trick for the under-23s last Monday, but one way or another it will be something of a makeshift attack for Arsenal and that tempers enthusiasm in the aforementioned options despite the expectation that they do oblige.
Indeed, it could even pay to back someone like Shkodran Mustafi to score first at 25/1. He's done so twice in his last 15 appearances and should have opportunities with Arsenal expected to dominate possession and force their share of set-pieces.
Danny Welbeck celebrates
Danny Welbeck celebrates
Celtic v Zenit St Petersburg (2005 GMT)
Celtic's formidable home record will be put to the test when they welcome Zenit on Thursday night.
The Scottish Premiership leaders have suffered only three defeats all season at Parkhead, and the fact all three came in the Champions League may point some towards the Russians here.
However, Celtic lost just 2-1 to Bayern and 1-0 to Anderlecht while there's no great shame in being swept aside by a Neymar-inspired PSG after coming through three preliminary ties to make the main draw.
When last they featured at this stage of the Europa League, Celtic held Inter to a 3-3 draw before losing to a late goal back in Milan and there's every reason to think they will head to Russia with at least a fighting chance.
Zenit haven't played competitively since December and while they've won two of their three friendlies in recent weeks, they could be found wanting on their return proper.
That was the case last year, when they lost 2-0 away at Anderlecht and eventually went out on away goals having won the reverse 3-1. Back in 2016, they were beaten 1-0 at Benfica in similar circumstances and while victorious a year earlier, that was a season which ended with a convincing title success and all evidence suggests they're not quite the same side under Roberto Mancini, who may be without key man Branislav Ivanovic.
Throw in a poor away record - Zenit have won one in seven since October, and that was at Real Sociedad when both sides had already progressed to the knockout round - and it's understandable that the early money has been for Celtic, who are worth backing draw-no-bet at just a shade under evens.
Zenit have done their best to be ready, training in Dubai, Turkey and Italy, but this is a tough place to return to action and they may be vulnerable if Celtic are at their best.
Best of the rest...
Borussia Dortmund drop into the competition after failing to win a game in the Champions League group stages.
The Bundesliga side have picked up their form since Peter Stoger replaced Peter Bosz in December - they are yet to taste defeat since returning from the winter break - and they play host to Italians Atalanta.
Michy Batshuayi has scored three goals in two appearances since arriving on loan from Chelsea and you can back the Belgian to score and win at 2/1, or support him to score two or more at 6/1.
Atalanta are currently eighth in Serie A and they are 7/2 for the win, with Dortmund odds-on at 21/25.
Real Sociedad were the second top scorers in the group stages, netting 16 goals in six outings, and they are favourites when they host RB Salzburg, despite a poor run of form in La Liga.
They've won just one of six games since returning from the winter break, though that's understandable seeing as two of those games were against Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It's not hard to see Sociedad edging the tie with both teams scoring is 13/5, while elsewhere AC Milan can be backed a smidge over evens to win in their away tie at Ludogorets and Atletico Madrid to beat Copenhagen with a -2 goal handicap is a tempting 11/2 chance.