AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has five goals in three games in all competitions so far this season. Photo by ImagePhoto/Imago/Icon Sportswire.
- Celtic vs AC Milan is the pick of the opening Europa League action, with former European champions meeting for the seventh time
- Goal-shy Arsenal might struggle to beat Rapid Vienna, and Granada will be hoping to import domestic form against PSV
- Read on for full odds, analysis and three best bets for Europa League Matchday 1
It seems just yesterday that the 2020 Europa League trophy was hoisted in the air by Sevilla, but here we are again, as the 2020-21 campaign kicks off on Thursday, October 22, with a full slate of games from across the continent.
The meeting between the 51-time Scottish champions, Celtic, and 18-time Serie A winners AC Milan is the pick of the opening ties, but there is seemingly something for everyone here, with some tempting bets on offer as some teams meet for the first time, while others exchange long-overdue pleasantries. With 23 Europa League matches on Thursday, see the odds for ten of the biggest matches as well as our three top picks below.
Europa League Matchday 1 Odds
|Red Star Belgrade||+600|
Odds taken Oct. 20 at DraftKings
Can Vienna Hold Arsenal?
For all the media headlines about Mikel Arteta’s new regime and Spanish-infused revolution at Arsenal, the Gunners have still found it difficult to score goals so far this campaign, with just eight in six games in the Premier League, and two more in two League Cup ties. That’s more George Graham-era Arsenal than anything close to Arsene Wenger’s free-scoring sides.
And just as concerning to Arteta will be his team’s inability at times to generate genuine scoring chances, with Saturday’s loss at Manchester City seeing the Gunners having just three shots on target.
Arteta on the chance to bounce back in Vienna: “Absolutely. We have to get used to this because we are going to be playing every 3 days in different competitions. We have a big squad at the moment, everyone is so willing to play so we will give opportunities to everyone” #Arsenal pic.twitter.com/eKKYcbtQGi
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) October 17, 2020
While no one is about to start comparing Rapid Vienna to Manchester City, the opportunity to frustrate an Arsenal side that is yet to begin firing on all cylinders is clearly there. That opportunity will be doubly enhanced with Arteta’s having one eye on Sunday’s home Premier League encounter with Leicester City, so his lineup will likely hold some of the big guns in reserve.
With just one European meeting between these two sides in their history – a 6-2 aggregate win for Arsenal in the old European Cup back in the 1991-92 season – familiarity will hardly be an issue. But Vienna has made a creditable start to its Austrian league season, currently sitting second with three wins and a draw from its opening four games. And having conceded just three times in those games, the opportunity to somewhat park the bus should present itself on Thursday.
Pick: Draw (+325)
Granada Poised to Spring an Upset
When heading into a Europa League week, is there any better preparation than beating the defending Europa League champions? Beyond that, is there any better prep work than beating arguably the greatest Europa League team of all-time?
If the answer to both of those questions is in the affirmative, then Granada is perfectly positioned to pick up three points on Thursday. Of course, their 1-0 win over Sevilla last weekend came with the six-time Europa League champions playing with 10 men for 45 minutes, but let’s not split hairs here.
So heading to Eindhoven, the Dutch league leaders, for Thursday’s Europa League season kickoff should feel like a manageable feat for Diego Martinez’s team. This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams, which both came through the Europa League qualifying rounds, so that removes any history from the equation.
— Mario Götze (@MarioGoetze) October 18, 2020
But while Granada has been testing itself against the likes of Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, against who it suffered a 6-1 mauling, PSV has been toying with the likes of Groningen and Heracles.
Pick: Granada (+235)
Can Milan Export Domestic Form?
With four wins from four, AC Milan are one of just two teams in the top-five European leagues with a 100% record so far (Aston Villa being the other). And although the teams they’ve faced outside of last weekend’s derby win over Inter, are not exactly world-beaters, there’s no denying Milan have been on a roll having now gone 20 matches undefeated across all competitions.
Zlatan Ibrahimović vs Inter (A)
39 yo.. pic.twitter.com/S3Ga90ESYU
— ACM Comps (@CompsACM) October 18, 2020
But it seems the current edition of the Rossoneri is made of sterner stuff. Led by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who beat COVID before seeing off Inter with two goals on the weekend, Milan seem to have ingested a large dose of self-belief, which makes their trip to Scotland to face fellow former European champions Celtic an intriguing prospect.
✅ AS Roma
✅ Lazio Roma
✅ Shamrock Rovers
✅ Rio Ave
✅ Inter Milan
— AC Milan Reports (@ACMReports) October 17, 2020
Celtic’s own derby on the weekend, against Rangers, didn’t go so well, with the Bhoys coming up short in a 2-0 loss in the Old Firm game. And while Milan sits happily on top of Serie A with four wins from four, Celtic is currently second to their great rivals, despite a creditable record of eight wins and one draw, to go with last Saturday’s loss.
⚽️ GOAL OF THE DAY: Ryan Kent v Celtic pic.twitter.com/MWsTijUbEk
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) October 16, 2020
However, Celtic had to deal with a whole host of injury problems in that game, including missing their top three strikers, and some of those absences will continue against Milan. In particular, Celtic will be missing Scotland international James Forrest, while a trio of players will miss the game after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Milan have absences of their own, including Croatian forward Ante Rebic and center-back Mateo Musacchio.
🍀#OnThisDay in 2007, a famous night at Celtic Park!
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 3, 2019
But history is firmly on Milan’s side, with a 6-1-1 all-time record against Celtic, and the Rossoneri taking a 3-0 win in their most recent encounter, back in the 2013 Champions League group stage.
Pick: Milan (-121)
For the last 20 years, Paul Attfield has worked in sports media. Starting out in his native Britain with the likes of The Independent, he eventually switched continents, with his work appearing in the likes of the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Yahoo Sports since.