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Underdog Sheriff, high-powered Manchester United provide value in Europa League

Nick Hennion of The Action Network breaks down his two best bets for Thursday's UEFA Europa League slate.

FOR ACTION NETWORK USE ONLY. SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: David De Gea of Manchester United applauds the fans after their sides victory during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Manchester United at Friends Provident St. Mary's Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
FOR ACTION NETWORK USE ONLY. SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: David De Gea of Manchester United applauds the fans after their sides victory during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Manchester United at Friends Provident St. Mary's Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)Read moreMike Hewitt / Getty Images

The midweek UEFA Champions League action has concluded, but there’s still more soccer left to be played before the weekend domestic competitions.

Of course, I’m referring to none other than the UEFA Europa League, considered to be the distant, boyish relative of the Champions League. Played amongst those clubs that either won second-tier leagues or finished good-not-great in the top domestic competitions, the opening slate of matches features some decent fixtures.

But where should soccer bettors focus for their betting opportunities on Thursday? Without further delay, here are my two best bets for the action. All odds come courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and are reflective at time of writing.

Best Bet #1 - Sheriff Tiraspol Draw, No Bet (+122) vs. Omonia Nicosia

Those who followed last season’s UEFA Champions League will remember Sheriff as the darlings who handed eventual champions Real Madrid a home defeat as 28/1 underdogs.

Now, Sheriff finds itself as a road underdog in Europe’s second continental competition and I’m frankly a touch surprised. Last season, in four continental fixtures against Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga, Sheriff finished with only a -1 big scoring chances differential and avoided defeat in three of those four matches. Additionally, Sheriff cleared at least one expected goal in three of those four matches.

That continental experience should come in handy against an Omonia side that played in the UEFA Europa Conference League last season and hasn’t experienced much success on the European stage. Across its previous two continental competitions, the Cyprus club has exactly one outright victory in 12 matches.

Plus, I question whether the Omonia attack can break through a stout Sheriff defense that arrives at this fixture having kept three clean sheets in its last five matches and leads the Moldovan National Division in total goals against.

For those reasons, back the visitors at +105 or better on the draw, no bet line to protect against the match finishing level.

Best Bet #2 - Manchester United Moneyline (-145) vs. Real Sociedad

Say what you will about Manchester United, but it has performed quite well at home over the last two seasons.

Last season, the Red Devils finished with a +7.7 expected goal differential at Old Trafford. Through three matches this season, it has a +0.7 expected goal differential and a +6 big scoring chances differential. Plus, it arrives at this fixture a positive offensive regression candidate based on its performances at Old Trafford. Through those three matches, manager Erik ten Hag’s squad has scored six goals against 11 big scoring chances.

Now, it gets a shot at a Real Sociedad squad that just sold its best attacking option in Alexander Isak and, in my opinion, arrives in Manchester in a good sell-high spot. Although it is 2-0-0 (W-L-D) away from home this season, those victories have come against Elche and Cadiz, two La Liga sides I believe are relegation threats.

Plus, just in its most recent fixture against Atletico Madrid -- a side that is somewhat comparable to Manchester United -- Sociedad escaped with a 1-1 draw despite losing the big scoring chances battle 4-3.

With United carrying more squad depth and (likely) unleashing Cristiano Ronaldo against its Spanish opposition, back the hosts at -150 or better on the moneyline or at +105 or better on Manchester United (-1).

The Inquirer is not an online gambling operator, or a gambling site. We provide this information about sports betting for entertainment purposes only.