4/4 Recap: I am truly astonished how yesterday went. I know that I whiffed on the majority of my props, all but one to be exact, but seeing Liverpool dominate Manchester City the way they did was symphonic. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren, two guys who I’ve basically cyber-bullied in 2018, were brilliant. Keeping a clean sheet against a team like City is mind-blowing. Pray for Mo Salah though. Hopefully, that was a precautionary substitution. As for the other game, Lionel Messi made a mark but never made the scoresheet. That being said, I’m glad former Red Luis Suarez could do the deed in saving my spread bet if it wasn’t going to be the Argentinian. So now we are on to a Europa League Thursday. I’m just grateful all eight teams play today so I don’t have to watch Atletico Madrid again.
My Picks: Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2 (Both Teams Score [-205], Over 4 total goals [+290])
Barcelona 3 Roma 0 (Barcelona -2 goals [-105], Lionel Messi scores [-175])
Actual Results: Liverpool 3 Manchester City 0
Barcelona 4 Roma 1 (Messi Doesn’t Score)
I should be familiar with all these teams at this point. But to be honest, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the Europa League right now. Everybody wants to say it is Arsenal and Atletico versus the field. Let’s just say I’m rooting for the field.
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
CSKA Moscow @ Arsenal (3:05 PM ET/ESPN3 USA, WatchESPN, Fox Sports 1 USA, fuboTV)
We start Europa Day off with a trip to the Emirates as Arsenal hosts CSKA Moscow. I didn’t even have to look at the venue for this one because if it was in Russia it wouldn’t start at the same time as the other three games. Now watch as I take that intelligence and flush it down the toilet.
Arsenal needs this competition, similarly to the way Manchester United needed it last year. They have zero chance of making the top four in England. Hell, even their Europa League qualifying spot is far from wrapped up. If the Gunners want to have any chance of participating in Europe in 2018-19, they need to win the Europa League. And although as I said before I’m rooting for the field, I feel Arsenal are the best-equipped team to take home the crown, even without cup-tied Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
But what about CSKA Moscow? Are they just a stepping stone? As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friends!” CSKA have several players who can wreak havoc on a suspect Arsenal backline if given the proper service. Ahmed Musa never made the impact in the Premier League that was expected of him, but he’s been a force back in Moscow. And watch out for the jack of all trades Pontus Wernbloom. Whether it be set pieces or a late-game shift to the striker, the multi-talented Swede could feature in any line of the CSKA attack or defense at any given time.
While I think Arsenal will probably win here, I am leaning towards them not covering the 1.5 goal spread (per Bovada). CSKA did all their damage in the Round of 16 at Lyon’s Parc Olympique Lyonnais. They won’t be fazed by the London crowd. Their fans will make plenty of noise of their own as they take a road goal back to the Russian capital.
PREDICTION: Arsenal 2 CSKA Moscow 1 (CSKA Moscow +1.5 goals [-125])
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
Red Bull Salzburg @ Lazio (3:05 PM ET/ESPN3 USA, Fox Soccer Plus, fuboTV)
Although they are one of the longshots, currently +1600, my field team I most want to see conquer the Europa League is Red Bull Salzburg. Not because they are particularly a fun team to watch, but due to the “you want your team to lose to the champion” corollary. Borussia Dortmund bowed out unceremoniously to the Austrian Bundesliga league leaders last round. I’m hoping for a similar fate for Lazio.
However, Lazio finds themselves in a comparable predicament to Arsenal. They are closer to Champions League football than the Gunners, but can’t seem to break into that top four. And with AC Milan playing out of their minds in the league right now, six points with eight to go isn’t an unattainable gap. So Lazio would love to win the Europa League and put the Serie A squabble aside. They just don’t have the squad depth to fight a two-front battle.
As for Salzburg, their Europa League journey has been icing on the cake of a beautiful year. They are in the running for a fifth straight double in Austria. The quarterfinals are the farthest they’ve traversed in Europe since losing the 1993-1994 UEFA Cup final to Inter Milan. They are auto-qualified for Champions League qualifying next year, but a win of the Europa League would allow them to bypass that grind.
While Lazio is half goal favorites (per Bovada), I cannot overlook Red Bull’s record in Europe and overall. They have yet to lose in European competition this year and have lost just once in all competitions. I’ll take the draw with them covering the small spread, but wouldn’t be surprised if they won outright at the Stadio Olimpico.
PREDICTION: Lazio 1 Red Bull Salzburg 1 (Red Bull Salzburg +0.5 goals [EVEN], DRAW [+260])
If you have any games you’d like me to pick over the rest of the week, you can contact me on Twitter @TREVORutley. In addition to the available media listed for each game, be sure to try out our Gameview service while watching as well. Also, here is a link for my results throughout and the points system. Cheers!