Hearts, Hibernian and Aberdeen will do Scotland proud in Europe
Phase one is already complete for Heart of Midlothian and Aberdeen who saw off their opponents in the Europa League first qualifying round. And they’re joined in this round by Scottish Cup holders Hibernian (a sentence the Easter Road faithful will never tire of reading!).
Here’s what all three sides can expect in their first leg ties, and how to back them.
Birkirkara v Hearts (Thursday 19:30)
The Maltese club bested Bosnian outfit Siroki Brijeg to record just their fourth victory in 23 knockout ties, but lightning is unlikely to strike twice for Josef Mansueto’s men, with Hearts’ strike force having hit the ground running in Europe this season.
Four different Jam Tarts players netted as the capital club ran out 6-3 winners against Infonet Tallinn. And the aerial prowess shown by defenders like Alim Ozturk and Igor Rossi – as well as the flair of Juanma and Prince Buaben, is likely to prove too much to handle for Birkirkara, in both legs.
Hearts are the men to back in the match betting at 3/4 for victory, but there’s even better value elsewhere. We recommend fans get on Prince Buaben to score anytime at 9/2, while another 4-2 victory for Robbie Neilson’s men (50/1) could turn out to be a truly inspired bet.
Hibernian v Brondby (Thursday 19:45)
Hibs fans will be hoping for a result which erases the memory of their most recent European foray in 2010, and they have the right man in charge to help create some positive memories in this season’s Europa League.
Neil Lennon famously led Celtic to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2012-13, as they swept away Barcelona at Parkhead, and his tenure also saw continental triumphs over Spartak Moscow, Ajax and Elfsborg – amongst others.
And the Easter Road outfit clearly have players who can trouble Brondby, with last season’s 25-goal man Jason Cummings, ex-Man United man David Gray and former Premier League hitman Grant Holt just a few of the players capable of troubling the Danes at both ends of the pitch.
It’s a tasty 5/2 for Hibs to take an advantage into the second leg. However, the 13/2 for Cummings to score first could be the best bet of all, having done so in 13 games last season.
Aberdeen v Ventspils (Thursday 19:45)
Dons fans have happy memories of their last meeting with Latvian opposition, with Derek McInnes’ charges thumping Daugava Riga 8-0 on aggregate in 2014-15. And there’s every chance Aberdeen will sail through with similar ease this time, with the Baltic outfit’s only previous continental success coming against European minnows.
A late flurry of goals secured a 3-1 home victory for the Dandies in the first qualifying round, with Shay Logan, Niall McGinn and Adam Rooney all on the scoresheet.
And a repeat of that scoreline could prove popular at 11/1, while it’s 40/1 they match the 5-0 pummelling dished out to Daugava at Pittodrie a couple of seasons ago.
Meanwhile, there could also be plenty of value in the safer bet of a draw at half-time and Aberdeen to win at full-time at 16/5, with the Dons having scored nine of their last 10 goals in Europe during the second half.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing