On October 8th I previewed the Europa League groups.
Let’s review after the opening games and see how well the players really did and whether we can spot anything useful that will help us in later rounds.
I’ve kept the original preview here for ease and…
Post game updates are all in these light green boxes.
Europa League - Groups
Group A - Roma, Young Boys, CFR Cluj, CSKA Sofia
This very soft group makes Roma assets a lot more attractive.
Key Players: None
Punts: Pedro, Veretout, Pellegrini
Youth: Carles Perez
A barely recognisable Roma side with 9 changes from the last match. Wouldn’t read too much into these numbers with a rotated side on a rain soaked artificial pitch. Key men Veretout/Pellegrini did not start.
Young CB Kumbulla came closest to a win with a goal but this is more good fortune than consistent level.
Borja Mayoral a new face after moving from Levante and could become a decent budget IPD option but we need more minutes to judge him on.
Roma may have better days in this soft group. I think former Barcelona youngster Carles Perez is the most interesting – just £1.16 to £1.46 and well within range of a win if he plays a full game on a good day for Roma.
Group B: Arsenal, Rapid Wien, Molde, Dundalk
Like Roma, Arsenal can be a suprisingly underwhelming performance side however this soft group, and likelihood of a good run in the competition, really gives them a boost.
Key Players: Willian (could argue he is a punt/veteran but I think he is so strong I’d be comfortable holding for a while),
Punts: Pepe, Ceballos, Aubameyang (I’d tend to go for him in later stages when he will have less competition on smaller match days)
Youth: Gabriel, Willock, Nelson (big pitch time risk but capable)
Arsenal fans will rightly be impressed with Partey‘s excellent debut. Looked similar to his good days at Atletico which means he’s high baseline but will struggle to add goals to really push the score into competitive territory.
However, he’ll be able to nick it on limited fixture days without a goal, and when he does score he could clear 300+. That may be a couple of times per season. As per the Deadline Day transfer article – there is some gossip that he thinks he is capable of more goals so that is worth keeping an eye on. No evidence of that so far but it is early days.
This £1.23 bid would be value – even without an improvement in threat he should justify that. And if he does improve a holder will be very happy.
Gabriel was impressive. CB’s are a little awkward on FI but some of them have such high baselines they can get themselves in contention – nicking limited fixture days or sometimes even winning when the more attacking defenders do not score on a match day.
I really liked him in Scouting and that first game versus Fulham was very impressive. I said back then though that there was no need to charge into him after the hype when he was £1.20. He’s dropped to 87p now – lots of traders come out when the hype for transfers has faded. Solid value pick up now and we should see regular challenges from him.
Very disappointing when trying to find good targets further forward though. I think we’ll need to see Willian back who really looks the only consistent midfield/forward challenger at Arsenal at the moment.
They do have a very soft group though. Dundalk and Molde to come at home in the next two weeks. Punts on Pepe, Lacazette, Nketiah or Aubameyang may pay off.
Even Saka could win on a day like that but overall he’s poor in that midfield category and that penny is starting to drop with traders – price is dropping just agonisingly slowly and again it’s those true believers who pay the biggest price.
Group C: Leverkusen, Slavia Praha, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Nice
Nice will be a challenging fixture but the other 2? Soft. Huge shock if they do not progress.
Key Players: Demirbay, Palacios, Tapsoba
Punts: Schick, Tah,
Youth: Diaby, Paulinho (when fit), Leon Bailey (game time risk but capable), Amiri.
Woah. Not sure anyone would have called 6-2 over Nice. Bodes well for Leverkusen assets because they only have softer teams to come.
The best players line up with the preview apart from the rested Demirbay.
Diaby bagged a goal and assist. Important as it breaks a goal drought. Not actually his best game in terms of overall involvement – he is capable of much better.
Still, not far away from a win here. As per Scouting since he switched to forward I’m optimistic on him especially for that £1.38 bid now which is criminally low.
Leon Bailey has started twice in a row now – good news for holders. If he keeps getting minutes I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see him make dividend challenges. Still just 23 and frequently gets big transfer rumours. £1.19 on a bid now – great value.
Amiri was close. Well regarded youngster just making the Germany squad fringes and expected to get a bigger move one day. Will be an occasional challenger. Good pick up for a patient trader.
Palacios consistent – he’s been surprisingly lightly used this season so far but he should get his chances and his capable of big scores.
Tapsoba was solid again. Again CB’s are awkward but he is one of those that can challenge because they just see so much of the ball and his passing is tidy. A really solid pickup for a patient trader. May drop on big transfer rumours he has the right style for big clubs.
17 year old Florian Wirtz is making a regular impression from the bench. Finishing nicely for the 6th goal. Not on FI yet but looking good and has some very FI friendly numbers. One to watch at IPO.
I started with the assumption that Nice would progress however interestingly if we look at the fivethirtyeight.com algorithm here (I like to use this as a sense check on betting odds/my own assumptions) it is backing Prague to qualify. Betting odds say Nice.
I would still expect Nice to go through but I have learned to give the algorithm a little respect when it comes to predicting upsets. That might make me a little more cautious than usual – particularly if Nice get off to a bad start.
Key Players: Gouiri, Youcef Atal,
Punts: Dolberg, Rony Lopes, Reine-Adelaide (New signing, we don’t know how he fits in yet but he’s potentially good if he starts).
Youth: K. Thuram
Nice were smashed here but they do have easier games to come now.
No surprise that Gouiri was the best of it. Another goal making 4 goals in 4 games (including France U21) plus an assist. The move to Nice is going about as well as hoped.
He’s in regular contention for wins already and in the kind of form that makes the hoped for big club rumours likely. Capable of popping off in these soft Europa fixtures to come.
Plenty of rotation elsewhere with Atal, Thuram and Lopes benched.
With these soft Europa games Dolberg would not be a bad punt. And neither would Lees-Melou actually. Also interested to see new signing Reine-Adelaide make his first start – on historic numbers he shows some FI friendly stuff.
Group D: Benfica, Standard Liège, Rangers, Lech Poznań
Should comfortably qualify and are expected to have a decent run in the competition. Can also be a good source of future transfers targets as well as just wins.
In Everton, Waldschmidt, Pedrinho you’ve got 3 decent players who are almost certainly bought with the intention of selling on. However, all joined recently, so it’s judging whether they will spend just 1 season or 2 at Benfica which is hard to know right now.
Key Players: Grimaldo, Everton Soares,
Youth: Waldschmidt, Pedrinho
Pizzi scored a penalty – only really unlucky to be subbed off at half time or he should have been up there challenging. He’s one of the best low key Europa punts around and he could do some damage in the upcoming home ties vs Liege and Rangers.
It was 21 year old Darwin Nunez who came closest though with an unexpected hatrick. He did not appear in my preview since he isn’t on FI. Whilst his overall numbers are fairly poor nobody can argue with his goals and assists record. Worth keeping an eye on – Benfica players with big goals tallys are never far away from a good transfer rumour.
Everton Soares was close to a goal and in the softer games like those coming up he could do really well. Plenty of minutes for Brazil recently too. Is expected to make a bigger move. Patient holders should be happy with this. And shorter term he’s in with a shot in these soft Europa games.
Waldschmidt could/should have scored too, he had a good chance. Bagged a brace in the last game vs Benfica. Doing well in Portugal so far. Also scored for Germany vs Turkey. The market hated his Benfica move but at 53p now that’s far too pessimistic and a patient trader can exploit that.
Pedrinho also capable but he is only getting limited bench appearances at the moment.
Group E: Granada, Omonia Nicosia, PAOK, PSV
Soft group and PSV’s array of talented youngsters have chance to make statements.
Key Players: Gakpo, Malen, Ihattaren,
Youth: (You could equally put Gakpo, Malen and Ihattaren here!).
Disappointing result for PSV. Should still have no issue qualifying in a soft group but this is a missed opportunity.
Ihattaren looked particularly good here with huge involvement. As covered in the Euro 2020 scouting he’s really struggling for goals at the moment but he is really not far away from big scores. Soft fixtures to come and he could make a statement. Wouldn’t take much to see the hype for him return.
Malen should have scored too. He’s in good form and could well fill his boots in the coming games. More on him in the Euro section updated yesterday.
Gakpo missing with illness – again though he’ll be in with a shot for the next two he’s in good form.
Gotze scored – he’s only appeared for PSV twice and he’s scored both times. Looking like a good punt if you can stomach the injury record. Probably a bit risky since if anything bad happens you are never selling this.
Group F: Napoli, Real Sociedad, AZ Alkmaar, Rijeka
A little group of death? Not quite, it’s one of the tougher groups but Napoli are comfortable favourites in both betting and algorithm.
Key Players: Insigne, Ruiz, Zielinski, Di Lorenzo,
Punts: Politano (if starting he’s capable), Petagna (Dark horse for strong IPD if he gets game time), Lozano (we’d need to see evidence of more consistency in Scouting – he got one big score recently but mostly looks poor).
Youth: Osimhen, Elmas,
Shock defeat for Napoli at home to AZ. Especially because AZ had 13 players ruled out with a corona outbreak.
A shame because Napoli dominated possession and could have racked up big scores here.
The group looks a lot tougher now. It was one of the harder groups anyway and they can’t afford another slip up especially at home. A loss to Sociedad away next would setup a nervy away trip to Rijeka… that may leave holders sweating. A bit early to stress too much about that, though.
Ruiz in particularly had monstrous involvement, elite level. Threat has been limited recently though but it’s a reminder that on his day he can be clearing 300+.
Politano was really strong and I expect that of him when playing, starting is his real issue. Had plenty of chances and is in good form scoring in both of his last two. A capable winner if he gets pitch time and for 62p to 83p he’s value even with rotation – it’s a packed season so we are going to see more of this than usual.
Insigne on from the bench as he returns from injury. Solid per minute numbers. He’s had his wins but he’s got to be one of the more unlucky players on FI that is not delivering as many wins as he should be in theory. Over time luck tends to correct itself though.
Lozano was pretty toothless after his recent heroics. If you take his last 7 games including friendlies he’s scored 7 and assisted 3 times and nobody can complain about that. He has a lot of ground to make up after a very poor last season. And the performance numbers are not great. However even as an IPD pick if he keeps starting he’s probably worth his money.
Standard sort of high threat low involvement game from Osimhen – he’s obviously an IPD player rather than a regular performance winner and that’s been known for well over a year. But he’s probably a good IPD player at Napoli. Only scored once in the last 5 and that is really surprising. He has the threat for 3-4. There are better IPD strikers for far less money which is the only thing.
Mertens, with a new contract, could be worth a look as a strong veteran pick. He’s got bags of IPD in him and can be a performance challenger too.
Should get through but AZ will provide tough competition.
Key Players: Oyarzabal,
Punts: Isak, David Silva
Key man Oyarzabal saw plenty of the ball and had chances to score. Though sloppy passing let him down which is something he is often guilty of. Likely, that improves at a bigger club. Remains a contender for the next two and Sociedad have kind fixtures in general. Looks a good hold certainly for the next month or so.
David Silva is very close to getting on the scoresheet here and could have easily challenged for the win. At a 43p bid and with good fixtures to come… I think if we get through the next month without seeing at least one big score from Silva holders can call themselves unlucky. Two year contract as well so I’d call this a strong veteran punt.
Isak very much off the boil right now but he is getting a few chances. Looks very cheap at the moment really given the likelihood of big club transfer rumours later on.
Barrenetxea injured for this one.
Underdogs in this group for sure. The games vs Rijeka should be a good chance for their key players to rack up decent scores though… that’s at the end of this month (Napoli before that).
Key Players: Stengs, Boadu,
Punts: De Wit (cheap IPD punt?)
Tough game for Alkmaar – they won but gave up lots of possession to Napoli. They have their best shot at big scores up next though – Rijeka at home next week.
Boadu one of the many out with covid.
Stengs played but no real impact on a tough game – next game should be a better opportunity.
Punt pick 22 year old midfielder De Wit got the winner. He’s in fine form with 6 goals and 2 assists in the last 5 matches. Not incredibly performance suitable but in this form bigger club links may not be far away. And he’s just 56p. Good for a patient trader. With a chance of a decent score or at least IPD in the next game too.
Group G: Braga, Leicester, AEK Athens, Zorya Luhansk
A very soft group. Braga the only real challenge. Leicester are expected to challenge for this competition.
Key Players: Maddison (Although I’ve been no fan since he went over £4+ this last year… £2.52 to £2.99 now – that’s back into a reasonable price range).
Tielemans (Again… was never justifying his £2.50+ in the old dividend structure… but with dividends doubled and now £1.02 to £1.33 on a bid – it’s fair. He could put up a very big score on occasion).
Castagne – new signing. Have not covered in Scouting actually but this is an oversight I should correct – he’s looking good in the opening games and 80p to 99p is a fair price.
Youth: Cengiz Under,
Note: Harvey Barnes may seem an obvious omission but… despite good performances recently he does look way off the pace for FI purposes.
Key man Maddison unlucky to miss out, subbed off early but he still challenged. As per the preview above I warmed to him after a massive price drop. He was available for as low as £2.52 just a couple of weeks back in that review. Lucky to get £3.09 now.
Two lessons here – crushing disappointment often follows big hype. People can switch from overly optimistic to overly pessimistic very quickly – and this can be abused.
This is where a big previous price can be useful – as people will think Maddison is cheap compared to his old £5 price. What we don’t want to do though is assume any previously pumped player has an automatic right to return to their previous high – they don’t. They have to earn it.
Very quickly Maddison has moved back into solid pick range rather than great value but he’s still a decent choice at £3.09 or thereabouts. Especially for the soft Europa games to come.
Iheanacho stole the dividend with a goal and assist and all round good display. He was not in my preview mainly due to a lack of consistent minutes. Maybe that was an oversight – it is not the first time he’s proven to be a good punt. no reason that can’t be repeated because in this market the price shot up for IPD but now people are desperate to sell the morning after – 58p even after a win.
Interesting to note that dividend wins drive prices but to hold that price people have to think it’s going to happen again next week. People want safety at the moment which is why I’m generally suggesting a focus on the “core” sort of selection from Key Strategy at the moment.
Barnes looked dangerous but I still don’t back him for big scores. I think people are realising he’s been pumped too heavily after starting the season well. But the numbers never suggested that was going to come through on FI. Still don’t.
We’re seeing a bit of Under. Quite tidy and potentially a good player. But… he looks quite far off the pace in the big hitting midfield category so far.
Group H: Celtic, Sparta Praha, AC Milan, LOSC Lille
They made us sweat – needing a late shootout to get into the Groups. But get in they have. I confess that after they beat Shamrock the other week I thought they were in and did not spot that yet another qualifier was needed.
This is important as Milan struggled to make a big impact last season on FI – but with European involvement, plus a big improvement under Pioli, optimism is justified.
A tougher group but AC Milan should comfortably make it through.
Key Players: Hakan Calhanoglu, Theo Hernandez,
Punts: Ibrahimovic, Kessie,
Youth: Brahim Diaz, Rafael Leao, Daniel Maldini (Not on FI – but watch out for him at IPO as per Scouting he looks a good youngster)
Nice away win for Milan. Celtic made it tougher than the scoreline suggests in the second half so it wasn’t Milan’s best game for performance scores.
Especially given they were missing key man Calhanoglu but he’s not expected to be out long.
Theo Hernandez was solid though as per usual. Chipped in with an assist and had a chance himself. Strong pick and I don’t back many defenders to consistently get themselves noticed.
Brahim Diaz scored a lovely goal. Starting life at Milan very well. He’s capable of improving too and these are not the best overall numbers we’ve seen from him. Really solid pick up at £1.35 and I’m optimistic.
Leao limited to a bench appearance again. Per minute he looks good and he scored twice vs Spezia in early October. But he seems to have to work really hard to get regular minutes.
Not on FI yet but 21 year old Jens-Peter Hauge came off the bench to score a nice goal. Most of the minutes we have on him are at minnows Bodo but… you’ll rarely see more promising performance numbers than this in a youngster. Obviously they’ll tighten up at senior level but you could cut them in half and still be happy with them.
Already made his first appearance for Norway too which shows he’s held in high regard. Interesting – well worth having him on the radar for IPO.
Should qualify but Celtic will put up a fight.
Key Players: Jonathan Bamba, Renato Sanches,
Punts: Ikone (Decent player but out of form… if he starts more games soon and he probably should I might be more optimistic than just a punt).
Youth: Timothy Weah, Jonathan David (But see scouting – he’s really struggling right now)
Yazici blows it away. He wasn’t in my preview on the 8th because really he didn’t do anything of note until this weekend just gone where he appeared in Scouting 4 days ago.
He’s been very lightly used in 2020, scoring his first goal vs Lens on the 18th. I called him a decent pick up for a patient trader at £1. He’s good… but I did not quite expect a hatrick straight away. He really isn’t a hatrick sort of player generally.
In truth he’s probably a bit lucky and the third goal in particular was gifted to him.
However, playing full games he’s got the baseline to contend with just 1 goal. And for £1.07 to £1.24 we don’t need to have sky high expectations. He’s still value for what he is and that short termism we are seeing amongst IPD punters means he’s still well inside value range.
That’s probably even better because if this were to happen again anytime soon… that’s when you’d expect a sustained price rise because people will see that it’s consistent. RIght now people probably just think he’s a flash in the pan… but he’s better than that.
Elsewhere Bamba continues to look much improved and close to big scores.
Ikoné has now scored 2 in his last 4 for club and country and importantly completing his a full match for Lille – he’s been surprisingly limited in minutes thus far. At under £1 I think he’s undervalued. IPD, outside chance of a win, and big transfer rumours possible later.
David continues to get chances but fails to finish. Must be kicking himself. Looks poor for FI overall. Price is really crashing. Almost getting tempting as an IPD pick in case he starts converting these chances. Almost. If it gets any closer to £1 maybe.
Group I: Villarreal, Qarabağ, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Sivasspor
What’s the opposite of a group of death? Should qualify comfortably or they should all retire in shame. Seriously though – Villarreal may not be the best FI side in the world but they can rack up some huge totals vs these minnows.
Key Players: Gerard Moreno,
Punts: Alcacer, Parejo (He may be better saving for later knockout rounds where he can win on baseline alone).
Youth: Chukwueze, Kubo (Neither are particularly FI suitable so in the groups where there are still a lot of games each match day they may struggle to get top midfielder. Actually, I note a significant improvement in Chukwueze’s numbers in pre-season and the opening couple of games – worth keeping an eye on.)
Villarreal have a really soft group and they made the most of it here hitting 5 although conceding 3 is really unhelpful for FI scoring knocking -15 off everyones scores.
Key man Moreno rested with a knee injury – not serious.
Parejo out until mid-November also injured – stalling his momentum.
Kubo’s best game in a long time. Goal and 2 assists. He’s one of those players that social media loves to pump because of the Real Madrid connection which can be helpful if holding. (Is he getting near the Real first 11 anytime soon though? Probably not).
His first full game in a while… per minute he’s ok but often let down by sloppy passing.
With very kind fixtures coming up he might be a good punt to exploit that hype from a possible big score in a soft fixture. But I’d be wary of pushing it too far because the price is really quite high already for what you are getting.
Punt pick Alcacer nearly nicked it in just 20 imnutes with 2 goals and dropping on the matchwinner.
Gets rotation but that doesn’t really matter for an IPD player. His threat is incredibly strong even if coming off the bench. 6 goals in the last 6 now and still just £1 on a bid. Good punt for this kind run of fixtures – and he’s so explosive he can actually win as well as just return IPD.
Good game for Chukwueze. I’ve noted an improvement for him in the preview there and he hasn’t let me down with good numbers here. Not a brilliant performance player but he’s not far away and he’s good value. It’s more about the possibility of big transfer links for later.
Group J: Tottenham, Ludogorets, LASK, Royal Antwerp
Another weak group and there could be plenty of walk overs. Spurs aren’t always a rich source of FI points (although Son challenges that notion) but with this group to go at… we should see some very competitive scores.
Key Players: Son, Kane, Reguilon (More by reputation than merit on his numbers at Spurs so far – will cover more in Scouting)
Punts: Lo Celso (Potentially very strong FI player – but struggling to establish as a regular at the moment).
Comfortable win but heavy rotation and subs made big scores hard to come by.
New signing Doherty is starting to impress me at the back. Could have scored here… assist potential has been good. We haven’t seen either goals or assists yet but he isn’t far away. And the baselines are solid. Looking a good pick up for just 70p. Particularly in this soft group.
Reguilon decent too at times but Doherty looks as good if not better and he’s a fraction of the price. I’m concerned for Reguilon at this price. It’s so easy for his new and shiny status to wear off and we see this all the time with new signings.
New signing Carlos Vinicius impressed on debut with 2 assists and he could have scored. Awful baseline numbers overall though and this is a very familar picture from his Benfica days.
However, his goals record is undeniably good. There will be rotation but for 97p I think that’s value as an IPD rotation pick… and he is an explosive sort so an occasional big score would not be totally unexpected.
All eyes on Bale… good display to watch. Caused the own goal. Generally unremarkable in his numbers in fact I would say they are poor. And this is a weak opponent where we want to see good players dominating.
Could be good but he’ll need to get more central. Really too early to judge but I am not impressed on the evidence thus far.
The price tag does bring pressure. If holding I would by no means give up but just watch the next games closely.
Group K: CSKA Moskva, Dinamo Zagreb, Feyenoord, Wolfsberg
Something of a dead group for FI interest. Note that is the Austrian Wolfsberg, not the Bundesliga one we may naturally think of first.
Should qualify comfortably… the two players below may be of interest but only if you think they will also get a transfer later. It’s possible.
Key Players: Chalov, Vlasic
Group L: Gent, Crvena zvezda, Hoffenheim, Slovan Liberec
Should have no problem topping this group, and there could be some walkovers on the cards here.
Key Players: Kramaric,
Punts: Skov, Dabbur (IPD)
Youth: Bruun-Larsen (Good potential player but he is struggling for regular minutes).
A covid blighted Hoffenheim easily overcame Crvena Zvezda.
But it’s a shame key man Kramaric was out because it’s the sort of game where he could be explosive.
Still, it’s a very soft group and there are plenty of those nights yet to come.
IPD punt pick Dabbur did deliver. 1 goal but he had the chances for 2. No reason he can’t rack up more in the league and in these easy Europa fixtures – he’s a regular threat and can be picked up for just 51p.
Sessegnon made his full debut for Hoffenheim. Unimpressive.
Skov rested but he’s a good FI suitable young player that could do well in later rounds.
Overall there are some good picks in this team, a pity so many were out with covid but they still have really soft games on the way in both league and Europa in the next month.
Kramaric in particular won’t get many better chances to shine.