Panathinaikos take on Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play-Off round, with both sides knowing the importance of gaining an early advantage to take into the reverse fixture.
Panathinaikos eased through the qualifying rounds of this competition last season, but only picked up one point from six matches in the group stage. This season, they are keen to make up for that poor showing and prove themselves worthy of a place in one of Europe’s biggest club competitions. In the third qualifying round, the Greek side fought off a spirited challenge from Gabala with a 1-0 first leg victory and a 2-1 win away in the reverse fixture. They haven’t had much in the way of match practice since that second leg, with just a friendly defeat to Smyrnis.
Bilbao were runners-up in this competition in 2012, and reached the Quarter Final in 2015/16. They again made it through the group stage last season, losing by a single goal on aggregate to APOEL in the round of 32. With a decent pedigree in this competition to protect, they will be hoping to once again make it to at least the group stages. However, they know they face a tough challenge against Panathinaikos.
A third qualifying round tie with Dinamo Bucaresti had the potential to be a banana skin for the Spanish side, but they convincingly won 3-0 at home in the second leg following a 1-1 draw in Romania. They have played twice since that second leg, losing to Liverpool and drawing with Alaves, so may be a little more match fit than their opposition.
Head to Head
There is no head to head information available for this match.
Betting Odds and Predictions
Bilbao are the betting favourites to pick up the victory here, although the odds suggest there’s a strong possibility of Panathinaikos winning. Coral have the Spanish side priced at 21/20, with Panathinaikos at 12/5, and the draw is 19/10. We think this is a tough match to call but give a tentative vote to Bilbao, mainly due to their superior record in this competition.
However, we would suggest taking the lower odds on offer in the ‘Draw No Bet’ market just as a bit of security against the match ending all-square. Bilbao are 8/15 in this market, so still a price with decent profit potential. Panathinaikos have kept twelve clean sheets in their last thirteen competitive matches at home, but Bilbao have only failed to score in one of their last eight competitive away matches.
So, this match seems to pit a stubborn home defence against an attack who score goals on the road. One of them must lose the battle here, and we think it’s more likely to be the Panathinaikos defence. However, we must also consider the fact the defence may hold out and prevent yet another away team scoring. Bilbao to score Over 0.5 goals is priced at 2/7, and Panathinaikos to keep a clean sheet is 23/10. These odds show the bookmakers also think the Bilbao attack will be too strong for the home team to keep at bay. We do think this will be a tight match, with solid defensive work on show. That leads us to believe there will be Under 2.5 Goals in the match, which is priced at 8/15.
Top Betting Tip
Our top betting tip for this match is Bilbao to score Over 0.5 Goals, at odds of 2/7 with Coral.