Russian Premier League leaders Zenit St Petersburg travel to the Netherlands to take on FC Utrecht in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off round.
Dutch side Utrecht have had a tough Europa League campaign so far and have made it through to this stage with just one win from four games. In the second qualifying round, they faced Maltese team Valletta and were held to a goalless draw in the first leg. They showed their superiority in the return fixture though and won 3-1 to book a third qualifying round fixture against Lech Poznan.
A 0-0 draw at home in the first leg gave the Polish side a huge advantage for the second leg. However, Utrecht dug deep, twice led, and played the last twenty minutes with ten men before going through on away goals after a 2-2 draw. They started their league campaign at the weekend with a 3-0 away win at Den Haag and come into this fixture full of confidence. Although they are the outsiders here, they know a surprise victory at home in this first leg would move them one step closer to a place in the group stage.
Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit have had a fantastic start to the season and want to continue that by securing a place in the group stages of this competition. The Russian Premier League season started on 16th July, with Zenit beating SKA-Khabarovsk 2-0 on the opening day. They have now played six in the league, winning five and drawing one to sit top of the table. This past weekend, they hammered Akhmat Grozny 4-0 for another morale boosting victory.
They entered this competition at the third qualifying round and started as expected, with a 2-0 win away at Bnei Yehuda in Israel. They did make it a little tough for themselves in the return fixture though, and gave their supporters a slight scare, as they suffered a 1-0 defeat. That loss wasn’t a disaster and they won 2-1 on aggregate to advance to this round.
Head to Head
This is the first competitive fixture between these sides.
Betting Odds and Predictions
Zenit St Petersburg are the favourites to pick up a victory in this first leg, priced at 8/11 with Sky Bet. Utrecht are 4/1 and the draw is priced at 13/5. Although Zenit are in great form, they showed in the previous round that they can be beaten by a less-fancied team. Utrecht are no pushovers and they have home advantage, which may be a catalyst for them to spring a surprise here.
If you do want to back Zenit, it may be wise to use the ‘Draw No Bet’ market. The Russian side are priced at 2/7 in this market, with your stake returned if the match is a draw. Utrecht have drawn three of their four ties in this competition so far, so it’s a big possibility this match will finish level. It may be lower odds, with a lower winning return, but it also provides a little security against the draw.
Zenit have scored at least two goals in five of their eight matches in all competition this season, and can be backed to score 2+ at odds of 5/6. Utrecht also know how to score goals, netting at least two in three of their last four games. Although they’re the underdogs, they may surprise a few people by netting 2+ goals at odds of 3/1.
One of the best bets we have found for this match is Zenit to win either half. Even if they don’t pick up a victory here, we fancy them to outscore Utrecht in at least one half. You can have a punt on this at odds of 4/11 with Sky Bet.
Top Betting Tip
We are going to keep it simple with our top betting tip for this match and back Zenit to win in the ‘Draw No Bet’ market at odds of 2/7. It may pay less than if backing them in the ‘Match Result’ market but we have gone for a little bet security with a high possibility of the draw.