Atletico Madrid Closing In On Europa League Glory

Gabe Morency

Friday, March 16, 2018 9:44 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 16, 2018 9:44 PM UTC

The Europa League quarter-final draw has been made and the big teams left in the competition have avoided one another. Favourites Atletico Madrid are up against Portuguese side Sporting while Arsenal have drawn CSKA Moscow.
<p>The Europa League quarter-final draw has been made, and the big teams left in the competition have avoided one another. Favourites Atletico Madrid are up against Portuguese side Sporting, while Arsenal have drawn CSKA Moscow, and both teams should progress to the semis. Serie A side Lazio have the quality to overwhelm Red Bull Salzburg, and another team bankrolled by the energy drinks giant, RB Leipzig, has earned an intriguing clash against Marseille. That looks like the closest of the lot, and you will have to look at handicap and specials markets to find value in the other fixtures.</p><p>Before the balls were drawn, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said he simply hoped to avoid Atletico Madrid, and he got his wish. Instead, the Gunners have to contend with a gruelling trip to the Russian capital to face CSKA Moscow, but that should not be unduly concerning. Man Utd went there and won 4-1 in the Champions League group stage, while Swiss team Basel also pulled off a 2-0 victory in Moscow. And CSKA are unlikely to travel well, so Arsenal should be able to wrap up a comfortable victory at The Emirates, where they have been strong this season.</p><p>Lazio have been playing some excellent football this season, and they are fourth in Serie A, with Ciro Immobile in particularly impressive form up front. They beat Dynamo Kiev comfortably in the last round and they should have enough attacking threat and defensive solidity to beat Salzburg. Marco Rose’s men sprung a huge surprise in the last round when they knocked out Borussia Dortmund, and they are not to be taken lightly. But Lazio -0.75 Asian handicap appeals in the first leg, which is in Italy, as they should cause plenty of problems for the Salzburg defence.</p><p>The tightest of the ties pits Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig against a pretty strong Marseille side. RB Leipzig knocked out Napoli in the last 32 and got the better of Zenit St Petersburg in the last round, so they are a force to be reckoned with in this competition. The Red Bull empire has invested plenty of money in the club and it paid dividends last season, as they finished second in the table, a great achievement for a newly promoted club. They have some excellent players, like Timo Werner and Naby Keita, and Marseille will struggle to win this tie.  The French side are third in Ligue 1 and blessed with the talents of Dimitri Payet, but RB Leipzig look stronger and they are an attractive bet to qualify at Marseille’s expense.</p><p>There are some decent teams left standing in this competition, but Atletico Madrid really should win it without too much difficulty. They are perennial Champions League contenders, so it is surprising to even see them in the Europa League, and they have been annihilating teams so far. They beat Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1 on aggregate to surge into the quarter-finals, and they have now won 11 of their last 12 games in all competitions. They look set to finish second in La Liga, above Real Madrid, and this tournament represents a great chance at silverware.</p><p>Atletico have the best defensive record in any of Europe’s top five leagues, while they are strong in midfield and have a dynamite strike force of Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa and Fernando Torres. Diego Simeone has them extremely well drilled and their all-action pressing game makes them a nightmare to play against in Europe. They are 6/4 to win the Europa League with bookmakers like Ladbrokes, Sky Bet and Betway, and that looks like a great bet as they should be able to crush the likes of Arsenal and Lazio in the latter stages of the tournament.</p>
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