Back Real Betis to beat Roma on Thursday. This could be a close game between two of the strongest sides in the Europa League, but the odds for an away win are too tempting to pass up.
With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to take place in November and December rather than the tournament’s usual slot of June and July, the group stage of this season’s edition of the Europa League is being squeezed into just eight weeks. That means we are already approaching the midway point of the first round, and the groups are beginning to take shape. For both Roma and Real Betis, Thursday’s match is an opportunity to deal a blow to their likeliest rival for the top spot in Group C.
The stakes are higher than usual under the competition’s revamped format, in which only group winners are guaranteed a place in the round of 16. Finishing second brings advancement only to the knockout round playoffs, where the opponents will be a team that finished third in their Champions League group. Roma and Real Betis are among the favorites to win the whole competition – only Premier League duo Manchester United and Arsenal are available at shorter odds with the best online sportsbooks – but only one of them will earn a last-16 spot in November.
Betis lead the way after taking six points from the first six on offer. They kick-started their campaign with a comfortable 2-0 triumph over Finnish outfit HJK, with Willian Jose scoring either side of half-time in Helsinki. And despite Ludogorets Razgrad twice threatening a comeback on matchday two, Manuel Pellegrini’s men never really looked like dropping points in a match that ended 3-2 in their favor.
Before his spell at Betis, Pellegrini was sacked by West Ham United after some rather disappointing work at the London Stadium. But he has done a marvelous job back in Spain, with Betis among the contenders for a top-four finish in La Liga this term. The man who celebrated his 69th birthday last month is showing that there is life in the old dog yet.
Rome were also victorious last time out, as goals from Paulo Dybala, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Andrea Belotti earned them a 3-0 win against HJK. But they trail Betis by three points after losing 2-1 to Ludogorets Razgrad on matchday one. That was a disappointing result for Jose Mourinho’s side, who are now playing catch-up in Group C.
Mourinho made history last season by becoming the first manager to win each of the three European competitions still in existence: the Champions League, the Europa League, and the Europa Conference League. In 2022/23, he is aiming to break another record by becoming the first manager to win this tournament with three different clubs, having already lifted the Europa League trophy during his time at Porto and Manchester United.
Roma have even been spoken of as potential Serie A title challengers, although Mourinho has been keen to play down such a suggestion by pointing to the money spent by their rivals. A top-four finish should be within reach, but Mourinho has always been focused on silverware more than anything. He will view this competition as one which Roma can win, so defeating Betis on Thursday would be a step in the right direction.
Mourinho has clashed with Pellegrini in the past. The pair regularly took digs at each other during their time together in the Premier League, when Mourinho managed Chelsea and Pellegrini bossed Manchester City. Critical or derogatory comments were traded before that too, with Mourinho less than complimentary about his predecessor’s work following his appointment at Real Madrid in 2010.
Both men have mellowed since then – although, it must be said, Mourinho was invariably the provocateur back then – so we should not expect too many fireworks on the side of the pitch on Thursday. Yet there should be enough entertainment served up by the two sets of players. A draw would be a decent result for Betis, but Pellegrini is an attack-minded manager who will not be planning for just a point.
As for Roma, a win here would put them in a decent position at the midway point of the group stage. But the stakes are high for the Serie A side, who would have a mountain to climb in the race for the top spot if they fell to defeat against the current leaders of Group C.
These two teams are evenly matched, but the odds do not reflect that. Indeed, while Roma are deserved favorites due to home advantage, Betis look overpriced in the moneyline market – after all, only Real Madrid and Barcelona had better away records in La Liga last term. Go for a Betis win in this one.
|Teams||Roma vs Real Betis|
|Location||Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy|
|Time||Thursday, 6 October 2022, 15.00 PM EST|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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