Charlie Nicholas returns with his predictions for the British teams getting their Europa League campaigns under way this week.
There are five British clubs involved in the European competitions this year, including Arsenal, who are looking to go one better than their final defeat to Chelsea in this competition last year.
And Soccer Saturday‘s Charlie has given his predictions for the upcoming fixtures…
What is the attraction to Sokratis Papastathopoulos? I would play Kieran Tierney on Thursday and see if Hector Bellerin could start too. Regarding Sunday’s game against Watford, when you see David Luiz giving instructions with 20 minutes to go, you know you are in trouble.
Konstantinos Mavropanos is still game time away from being fit. It would be the end if Shkodran Mustafi was to be brought back. We need to get Rob Holding, Bellerin and Tierney back into the side as soon as possible. I would take a hit and play these players to give them game time and let them get match fitness.
Nicolas Pepe was dreadful against Watford. How Emery took Mesut Ozil and Dani Ceballos off ahead of him was beyond me. It is starting to effect Ainsley Maitland-Niles and some of the other young players. Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock came on and could not keep the ball.
It is the manager’s responsibility. He must resolve this and come to a conclusion on how to sort this out. Tierney, Bellerin, and Holding should play – I would play them this week and take a defeat if it meant they got the game time they needed.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-2 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
It doesn’t make a difference that Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard were missing – they have not been setting the world on fire. It is not convincing with United but this is another game in which they will get over the line, in comfortable fashion.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Wolves vs Braga
Nuno Espirito Santo will want to get one over on the Portuguese side. Braga are always dangerous but do not travel well. Are Wolves caught up in the emotion of the Europa League? They took their foot off the pedal in Premier League as they were thumped by Chelsea.
They were blown away at weekend and it was very unlike them to concede five and make so many mistakes. They need to get back to basics and get a win in in the Premier League, but Nuno will take this seriously and I expect Wolves to be too strong here, getting off to a fine start in the group stages.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Rennes vs Celtic
Rennes have started very well in Ligue 1. I am hoping that M’Baye Niang will not be playing. He is lightning quick, almost a lesser version of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. These guys can play and move, and that is what Celtic struggle against.
Celtic will be good on the counter-attack, but their reputation is always the same. They get scared when they travel away from home. They don’t know where to pitch their defence and whether to play a squeezing game or not. They will have technically gifted players and pace out wide, where they will look to exploit. Celtic still have defensive injuries and will not threaten here.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (17/2 with Sky Bet)
Rangers vs Feyenoord
5/1 with Sky Bet)
Charlie’s earlier predictions…
Napoli vs Liverpool
This will be a good test for the Champions League holders. We saw a vulnerable side to their defence at the weekend again, conceding after just seven minutes against Newcastle. They have walked away comfortably and won, but that is not the point.The difference Roberto Firmino makes is unbelievable. He doesn’t get the goals that Mohamed Salah gets or has the pace that Sadio Mane does but he has skill and cunning. He is a real team player and is my favourite out of the three, my favourite to watch, although he may be easier to mark than the other two.
Liverpool have not improved in midfield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a fringe player. We know they are a good side but those three have to be on their game to win matches.
Napoli are all-action and very strong at home, but not convincing away from home. Dries Mertens just rocks up and does the job. He gets big goals and I expect him to grab another through the week.
CHARLIE PREDICTED: 2-1
Chelsea vs Valencia
Tammy Abraham’s goals are gigantic but Mason Mount’s performances have been impressive. England U21 players have scored all 11 Premier League goals thus far which is remarkable. I thought they would be in trouble at Wolves but I was wrong. They have good energy and good pace up front. It is an expansive way of playing for Frank Lampard.