Paide v Dinamo Tbilsi
Thursday 14 July – 5:00PM KO
Paide had one of the shocks of the round in the 1st leg of the Europa Conference League against Dinamo, coming from behind not once but twice to win the game 3-2. A result no one saw coming.
Paide will be more than happy taking that narrow lead back to Estonia, although due to UEFA regulations the game will not be played at Paide’s stadium instead being played in Pärnu.
Paide are newbies to European competition only starting to compete in the last 3 years and the win over Tbilisi in the 1st leg was their 1st ever win in Europe, that confidence will spread into the 2nd leg against a Dinamo that tend to have a poor away record in Europe.
With a full squad to choose from, it will more than likely be the same team that featured in the 1st leg, getting another 90 minutes out of Ragnar Klavan will be crucial if Paide are to stand a chance. It’s unlikely that Dinamo are going to sit back as they need a win – from minute one, The goal of Paide will be attacked, Klavan’s experience will be so important on the undoubted nerves of the rest of the team.
Paide may look to take out an attacking player for a defensive player and look to play out a 0-0 although this isn’t likely as Paide do not do 0-0 draws, using late substitutes for their attacking players is something that will be used as an advantage as Dinamo begin to tire, the very pacy players of Saarma and Singhateh will be very dangerous on the counterattack.
Dinamo will be up for this one and will need to start quick to get themselves back into the game, a 2-0 score line will be enough for them to progress, an early goal opens this game up for both sides to be more attacking and take more risks.
Prediction: Over 2.5 Goals, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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SJK v Flora Tallinn
Thursday 14th July – 5:00PM KO
Flora take a slender 1-0 win from their 1st leg as they prepare for their game in Finland. A game that should have seen more goals for Flora and hopefully it won’t come back to haunt them.
Flora haven’t played since the 1st leg which gave them time to properly prepare for the game ahead. SJK meanwhile have had a game, winning 3-2 with a last-minute winner in their league game. Arguments will be made from both sides that playing and resting before a big game is an advantage.
Flora looked good in the 1st leg, dominating most of the game without too much of a threat from SJK. The only disappointment is that they didn’t score more, a big focus on trying to score the perfect goal maybe out of arrogance, whatever the reason, it didn’t work. Flora probably spoke about this in training and may even opt for a shoot on sight style of play if the opportunities arise.
Expect to see an almost identical line up to the 1st leg and it would be unlikely that Flora will park the bus on a 1-0 lead, it’s not the Flora way. Maybe a little bit of caution in the opening minutes but then start to dominate the midfield just like 1 week ago.
Markus Soomets and Konstantin Vassiljev will be the star players for this one, what a player Soomets has been for Flora this year, an engine in the midfield. Vassiljev float around the park setting up attacks for the likes of Zenjov and Ojamma to chase down.
Playing in Finland shouldn’t cause to much of a worry being just 2 hours away by ferry. A lot of Flora fans should be heading out to show support so a decent atmosphere can be expected.
Overall, it will be a tougher game than the 1st leg, but Flora last week showed just how good they can be.
Prediction: Flora Draw no Bet, 1.65 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Dila Gori v KuPS
Thursday 14th July – 6:00PM KO
KuPS made it look easy in the first leg, a goal in each half giving them a 2-0 lead as they travel to Georgia. The Veikkausliiga leaders did have a match at the week, but they were able to rest a few of their stars as they made light work of Lahti (4-0). Since losing their long unbeaten run, they’ve got back into the groove in great time.
The highlight in Kuopio was a stunning direct free kick by Janis Ikaunieks to open the scoring, meanwhile a late penalty from Tim Vayrynen settled the nerves. Tim came on as a late sub on Sunday and scored again. KuPS had fourteen efforts on goal in the game and kept Dila at arm’s length. Despite the long trip, KuPS will be taking a full strength squad, plus some new arrivals.
Striker Filip Valencic and midfielders Jaakko Oksanen and Christian Jensen will be eligible to play in the fixture – Valencic has a strong pedigree with Finnish clubs, doing well previously with HJK and Inter. Coach Simo Valakari has rotated his team well so far this year and the additions should add plenty of fresh blood.
After last year’s efforts in getting through to the play-off round, KuPS will be confident of reaching at least qualifying round three this year. A confident side in good form should have little trouble in maintaining their aggregate lead here. Dila did seek to press early on but KuPS had little trouble and the class gulf did tell in the end.
Prediction: KuPS Double Chance ,1.50 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Riga FC v Derry City
Thursday 14th July – 6:00PM KO
Derry City have been left with a mountain to climb after the Irish side suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Latvia’s FK Riga last Thursday. Despite having won their previous two domestic matches leading into the tie, pundits had been rather pessimistic about Derry’s chances given their rather underwhelming recent results and performances in the league. Prior to wins over UCD and Bohemians, Derry had gone winless in their previous 7 in the league, essentially blowing any and all chances of a title challenge.
Derry fans would have been well aware of the degree of task their side faced even before a ball was kicked at the Brandywell on Thursday as Riga had taken an excellent Dundalk side to penalties across a two-legged Champions League tie back in 2019.
A quick glance through the Riga squad will show you the level of investment required to compete in Europe with the Latvian side containing players from all corners of the globe. While Derry City have invested heavily ahead of this European campaign, they are very much in the early stages of a long-term project to compete for honors at home and to go deep in European competition.
A lengthy injury to star-signing Michael Duffy was a killer blow to manager Ruadhri Higgins early on this season and despite having quality players all over the park, Duffy is arguably still the best player in the league and would have brought crucial European experience from his time at Dundalk.
Derry City’s time will come but this was a draw they were unlucky with and it appears they will have to wait another year for a deep run in Europe.
Prediction: Riga to Win, 1.70 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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Partizani Tirana v Saburtalo
Thursday 14th July – 7:00PM KO
Probably the least anticipated matchup for Georgian supporters who’ve been rather disappointed with Saburtalo this season. A team that has quality in the squad with experience and up-and-coming youngsters in the mix with the likes of Iuri Tabatadze, Giorgi Gocholeishvili, and Giorgi Guliashvili, guys who should be able to crack the rotation for the Georgian National team in the nearest future. Despite all that, they’re tremendously mismanaged and are underperforming throughout the season. On the other hand, they were facing an average-looking Albanian side Partizani, who finished the season as the 3rd best team in the league, with a 15-point gap between Tirana, who celebrated their second title-winning season since 2020.
The match-up has boring game written all over it, and safe to say, the game itself matched it in the first leg. 29-degree heat on a Thursday evening didn’t help as both teams struggled to organize and execute a game plan of some sort. Just a single shot on target, a couple of half openings, and that was that, onto the second 45. The second half started the way the visitors could’ve only dreamt of, just a minute in, and they were gifted an easy tap-in to make it 0-1. Saburtalo looked slow, trying to come up with something by their younger individuals, but it wasn’t to come. A few chances in the last 10-15 minutes could’ve gone in their favour, but they didn’t, in the end, 0-1, with Partizani taking home a well-earn victory in what was probably the least entertaining 90 minutes of football, anyone could’ve witnessed.
Saburtalo have nothing to lose, do they have the tools to overcome their opponents away from home? yes, but do they know how to utilize them? probably no. Considering how both teams played, it should be a similar-looking match in Tirana on Thursday, just two mediocre sides finding out who’s worse.
Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.62 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Sligo Rovers v Bala Town
Thursday 14th July – 7:00PM KO
Having totally flopped on the European stage last season, Sligo Rovers supporters will have been delighted and relieved in equal measure following last Thursday’s 2-1 win away to Bala Town. Having conceded a very early goal against the Welsh side, flashbacks of last years quick European exit to a very average Icelandic side would have come flooding back to the minds of those connected with the Bit O’Red.
However, former Falkirk striker Aidan Keena and New Zealand international Max Mata soon helped settle any Sligo nerves with a couple of goals while manager John Russell will have been pleased with the calmness and composure his team showed when going down to ten-men for the final 11 minutes or so following Nando Pijnaker’s sending off.
Keena’s sublime chip to level up the scores in the first-leg was his 12th goal of the season in all competitions for Sligo with Bit O’Red supporters receiving a further boost during the week with Keena signing a new deal until 2024.
Mata, meanwhile, has scored two goals and created an assist for Keena in Sligo’s last two games.
Bala Town finished a remote second in the Welsh Premier League last season and while Sligo Rovers were a tad underwhelming in finishing third domestically, there’s no doubt the League of Ireland is a far stronger league.
Bala are currently out of season but suffered a 5-1 defeat against Welsh champions TNS in a warm up game for both teams respective European ties. Meanwhile, Sligo Rovers have begun to play the kind of free flowing passing football they’ve been renowned for in Ireland down the years ever since John Russell took over from Liam Buckley as manager in recent weeks.
There were more away fans than home supporters at the first-leg with the Bit O’Red fans converting the Bootlegger into one of their own and with a packed out Showgrounds expected for this home European tie, it’s hard to look past a Sligo Rovers victory.
Prediction: Sligo Rovers to Win, 1.40 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Crusaders v FC Bruno’s Magpies
Thursday 14th July – 8:00PM KO
Crusaders shock 2-1 defeat to Gibraltar outfit Bruno’s Magpies last week may just be the wake-up call the North Belfast side require ahead of Thursday’s second leg encounter at Seaview.
Last season’s Irish Cup winner’s had to contend with extreme heat in on the island last week but the milder conditions expected in Northern Ireland will undoubtedly help their cause in the upcoming second leg against the Magpies.
Stephen Baxter’s charges are still very much in the tie thanks to Jordan Forsythe’s second-half consolation and they know success over the two legs will set up a second-round match against top Swiss outfit Basel.
Despite going 2-0 down to the Magpies the Crues came back strongly in the second period and could well have snatched a draw through a Jordan Owens effort in the dying minutes of the match.
Crusaders home European record is not the greatest though having won only five of their previous 23 home games in Europe, however, four of those victories have come in their last 10 outings at Seaview.
They have a very experienced forward line in the shape of Jordan Owens, Paul Heatley, who down the years have scored 11 goals between them in Europe for the club, as well as new signing Dean Ebbe who managed six European goals for his previous employers TNS.
It was a winning European debut last week for the Magpies, but their lack of experience at this level may go against them so for them to record back-to-back victories on Thursday evening is fairly unlikely.
The weather, experience, and home advantage points to a Crusaders victory, although it will be by a narrow margin.
Prediction: Crusaders to Win, 1.40 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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Larne v St Joseph’s FC
Thursday 14th July – 8:00PM KO
Larne will go into Thursday’s second-leg contest with Gibraltar outfit St Joseph’s as favourites to progress to the next stage of the competition following a scoreless draw at Victoria Park last week.
Manager Tiernan Lynch was pleased with the overall performance in the first leg which was played in humid conditions and on a dry bumpy pitch which meant that Larne could not play their usual passing game.
Impressively, Larne have now lost just one of their last seven European ties and their clean sheet against St Joseph was their fourth recorded in those seven games.
The Northern Ireland side, who qualified for this season’s Conference League following a play-off victory over Glentoran last term, have a 100% home record in Europe having won all three of their games at Inver Park last season whilst conceding just one goal.
Those three successes came against Bala Town (1-0), AGF Aarhus (2-1), and Portuguese team Pacos Ferreira (1-0), so fairly decent opposition!
Lynch has a full panel to call upon on Thursday which means that he has 11 of the players available to him that were part of last season’s European adventure, which will be a huge advantage.
The Saints will be up against it at Inver Park and with just one victory from their previous 12 Europa League games so it is difficult to see anything other than a Larne win, by a 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline.
Prediction: Larne to Win, 1.33 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Cliftonville v Dunjaska Strada
Thursday 14th July – 8:00PM KO
In front of a sold out Solitude, Cliftonville will go into Tuesday’s encounter with Dunajska Streda reasonably confident of victory despite their opponents holding a 2-1 advantage from the first-leg.
After going a goal down to the Slovakian side midway through the first half at the Mol Arena last week, Paddy McLaughlin’s side showed real character to bounce back three minutes later with an equalising goal from debutant Ronan Hale.
Streda regained the lead in the second period, but after the home side had a player red-carded in the final quarter of the game, last season’s Irish League runner’s up pressed hard for a second equaliser, but to no avail!
History is against a Reds victory though as in 19 previous home matches in Europe they have only ever managed four wins the last being a resounding 4-0 success over Welsh side Barry Town last season.
However, McLaughlin’s teams are always built on a sound defensive base, so it was no surprise that the club conceded one goal or less in 40 of their 50 games in all competitions last term keeping an impressive 22 clean sheets.
Meanwhile, Strada travel to Northern Ireland without winger Brahim Moumou, who was dismissed in the first leg last week, and left-back Eric Davis, who injured his ankle in training on Sunday.
I fully expect both teams to score, but the Slovakians full-time status may again be enough to earn them a narrow victory and a place in the next stage of the competition.
Prediction: Both Teams to Score, 1.73 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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