UEFA Europa League Semis – FC Porto vs. Villarreal

The UEFA Europa League semi-finals has a distinct Iberian flavour as all four teams hail from the south-western European Peninsula, three of which are Portuguese and one of which is Spanish. One thing is certain, the trophy is heading to the Iberian Peninsula. The question is which team will take the coveted trophy home?

FC Porto goes into the first leg as the hot faves to win outright and they are the runaway favourites in the futures market to win it all, listed at +130. Villarreal are at the distinct disadvantage for the first leg, but where the overarching UEFA Europa League markets are concerned, they are listed as the second favourite to win outright at a tempting +250. 

What these overlapping markets suggest is that we should have a very competitive tie between these two faves for the title. After all, European glory in on the line and if the bookies have it right, one of these two sides is the most likely to be Europa Champion, when all is said and done.

Soccer Betting Line:

FC Porto  -1  +110   -160   2½  O -120   U -110   1½  O -145   U +115   Draw   +250    

Villarreal  +1  -140   +425   2½  O -120   U -110   ½  O -155   U +125 Draw   +250    

Match Time: 03:00 PM Eastern Time (12:00 Pacific Time) Thursday April 28, 2011

Soccer Betting Verdict: FC Porto takes a 10-1-1 mark since the group stages into the semis; their only draw came early in the competition when they drew 1-1 at home to Besiktas and their only defeat was in the R32, at home to Sevilla at home.

Villarreal takes a 9-1-2 mark since group action into the semis; they suffered two defeats in the Group stage of the competition to Dinamo Zagreb and to PAOK; since group action they been undefeated however going 5-1-0.  Crucially, they scored 15 goals and conceded six.

A lot of pressure comes with being the favourites and FC Porto will aim to live up to that label. As far as domestic action, they are enjoying a 15-match winning streak, part of an incredible undefeated run in Primeira Liga action that has them at 25-2-0 on the season.

By contrast, Villarreal has been shaky on its domestic front, oscillating between wins and losses at whim. Overall, they are 17-610 on the season, which sees them occupy fourth place going into the 34th cycle of Spain’s Primera Division action.

Nevertheless, Villarreal is a good match for FC Porto and if there is a team that can thwart the tournament favourites, it’s this Spanish side.  But it won’t be easy, that is for sure.

Villarreal will need to be in top form to take out the Portuguese side over these two legs and, especially for the return leg at home. As far as the first leg, I personally wouldn’t be surprised if they did win, although conventional wisdom points to Porto winning and Villarreal, given their capacity for scoring, to tuck away a crucial away goal, or two.

Soccer Free Picks: Villarreal +425 | Over 2 ½ -120