St Joseph’s and Europa both play away from home in the Europa League tonight, with both teams hoping to bring a good scoreline back to the Victoria Stadium for next week’s second leg ties.
Photo © C Correa Photography
St Joseph’s are in Kosovo to take on FC Prishtina at the Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri, the same stadium Lincoln narrowly lost 1-0 to Feronikeli in on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, 45 minutes before Saints kick off, Europa will be getting their game underway in Andorra, where they take on UE Sant Julia at the Estadi Comunal.
On paper at least, St Joseph’s would appear to have the harder tie of the two sides – Prishtina beat Europa 5-0 at this stage of the tournament last season in Kosovo, and will prove to be fierce competition – especially with the reward of a lucrative money-spinning tie against Rangers on offer for the winner.
For Europa, they will fancy their chances of progressing over two legs, but they will need to improve on their away record in European competition – one win from six games on their travels in Europa since the 2014-15 season. The reward on offer for either Europa or Sant Julia would also be a big tie, against Polish giants Legia Warsaw, who themselves will know they have to take this stage of the tournament seriously after losing in the qualifiers to Dudelange of Luxembourg last season.
As for St Joseph’s, they are missing two of their new local signings, Sykes Garro and Leon Clinton, who haven’t travelled to Kosovo, while JP Duarte has also not made the trip – with no HGP rules in Europa, neither Saints nor Europa have any restrictions as to who they can name in their first eleven. Europa are believed to have a full complement of the players registered in their squad available, including Tjay De Barr who will play in these qualifiers before his move to Segunda Division side Real Oviedo.
Being away from home, both Europa and St Joseph’s are underdogs tonight, at 19/10 and 17/2 respective to win. In Europa’s case though, the game is thought to be more evenly balanced, as Sant Julia themselves are 17/10 (the draw is 12/5). Meanwhile, Prishtina are 3/10 odds on favourites to win in Kosovo tonight – understandable given the strength shown by Kosovar sides in their home country since entering UEFA and FIFA.
The importance of grabbing an away goal or two won’t be lost on either side either, and Europa are 4/9 to score 1 or more goals tonight (St Joseph’s are 5/6 to score 1 or more). At this stage of the tournament, there are no individual goalscorer bets, but if any do become available, we’d suggest Tjay De Barr for Europa, and Salvador ‘Boro’ Delgado for St Joseph’s.
Away from those two games, Gibraltarian referee’s will take charge of Barry Town v Cliftonville tonight – Jason Barcelo will have the whistle, while Andrew Parody and Daniel Gomez will run the line – Patrick Canepa will be 4th official for an all-Gibraltarian officiating team in Wales.