UEFA Europa League Semis Preview – FC Porto and Benefica on the verge of the Final

FC Porto and Benefica are on the verge of the UEFA Europa League final after winning the first leg of their semi-final ties but while the former has a commanding lead and is almost certain to go through the latter is only in pole position, which is flimsy at best.

FC Porto trounced Villarreal in Portugal last week, beating the Spanish side by a staggering 5-1. Now, Villarreal is faced with a monumental task: reversing a nigh-irreversible score. It will take something extraordinary from Villarreal to mount a comeback that, I dare say, has never been witnessed in the game. Is it then any wonder that hardly anybody is holding out hope for Villarreal?

Benefica took the opening leg of its all-Portuguese semi-final tie with a narrow 2-1 victory but while they have one foot in the final (so to speak) that can quickly change as the deciding leg moves to Braga today where frankly the hosts have a good chance to reverse the tie in their favour.

Soccer Betting Line:  Braga +190 vs. Benefica +150            Draw +220

Match Time: 03:00 PM Eastern Time (21:00 Local Time) Thursday May 5, 2011

Soccer Betting Verdict: Benefica goes into the second leg tipped shorter than Braga, which signifies that the bookies are cornering this match in their camp even though they’ll be entering hostile territory when they descend on the Estádio Municipal de Braga. This is partly because they have a 2-1 edge going into the second leg, which means it is their tie to lose. Mainly, Benefica is last season’s titlists in Portugal and although they aren’t on track for a second straight title this season, still they are considered a better side ‘on paper’ than Braga is.

Braga at +190 is a tempting bet because a) they have home advantage and b) they only trail by a goal. That said, from the start of the semis Braga were the quintessential underdogs in the mix so a win by them today would be a huge upset within the context of the competition and in terms of market forecasts. Anything is possible of course but I still think that Benefica will find a way to win.

Soccer Free Picks: Benefica +150

 Soccer Betting Line:  Villarreal +170 vs. FC Porto +150     Draw +240

Match Time: 03:00 PM Eastern Time (21:00 Local Time) Thursday May 5, 2011

Soccer Betting Verdict: Villarreal is out of the UEFA Europa League to all intents and purposes. Reversing a four-goal deficit is a tall order and, frankly, I don’t see it happening when whatever confidence they might have had going into the semis is now laying in tatters on the luscious green field at Estádio do Dragão. I dare say they don’t either. The only thing that is left is pride; that is, salvaging whatever they can of it by winning today’s encounter or better yet, avoiding a similar collapse.

Villarreal to win is trading at +170, which is a tempting option; another good bet is a draw at +240 in this clash. Whatever the outcome is I expect it to be close bearing in mind that FC Porto has the spot in the final practically sewed up so they won’t be risking too much in this encounter.

Soccer Free Picks: Villarreal +170