Athletic Bilbao v APOEL Betting Tips: Hosts to prove too strong at San Mamés

Feb 15 2017

This Europa League tie is a bit of a mismatch as Basque side and one of the more likelier competition winners Athletic Bilbao host Cypriot minnows APOEL.

Athletic have been on a pretty good run in La Liga recently with just one defeat (which came against Barcelona) in their last seven matches. However, despite this good set of results, Athletic still find themselves down in eighth.

Defence is certainly Bilbao’s strong point this season and, outside of the big three plus Villarreal, they have the best defensive record in La Liga this season. Offensively though they have been poor with just 28 goals scored in 22 league matches – the seventh-worst in the league.

Ernesto Valverde’s side have been sublime at home so far this campaign and they have only lost one match in all competitions at San Mames and even that came all the way back in August to Barcelona. Bilbao also scored nine goals at home in the Europa League group stage.

APOEL are certainly minnows on the European stage but, in Cyprus, they are the dominant team and it is no surprise that they are currently five points clear at the top of the Cypriot league. They did come through a relatively weak group in this season’s Europa League but it is still surprising that they qualified ahead of Greek champions Olympiakos.

With Thrylos being so far ahead of everybody in Cyprus, it is no surprise that they top all the tables: Home Form, Away Form, Goals For and Goals Against. However, with the Cypriot league being so poor, they cannot be expected to transport this form into European competition.

Thomas Christiansen’s side have been poor away from home in Europe over the years, recording just one victory in their last 15 Champions League and Europa League matches on their travels.

Athletic are rightly the favourites here and I expect them to pull off a convincing victory against their comparatively small opponents. ‘Athletic Bilbao to Win -1.5 Asian Handicap’, at 1/1, is too good to pass up. The Basque side should have too much in the locker and can build a convincing lead ahead of the second-leg.

See more Europa League tips here.

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