Athletic Bilbao v Schalke, Thurs 20:05
In an effort to continue their three-pronged campaign, Athletic Bilbao look firm favourites to book their place in the semi-finals of this season’s Europa League when they play hosts to Schalke 04 in the second leg of their quarter-final fixture tonight, as Paddy Power offer odds against for the home win.
The Spanish outfit are already set to go up against Barcelona in May’s Copa Del Rey final and are also hoping to seal a top four place in La Liga, however that third factor is by far the least likely.
It won’t matter to Marcelo Bielsa though, just how his team make it into next year’s Champions League as long as they make it there in the end and if that comes via Europa League success then the club will be overjoyed nonetheless.
Schalke travel to San Marmés having lost the reverse fixture 4-2 and it would be a surprise if the German team managed to hold back the Bilbao attack once again.
Huub Stevens’ side fell victim to a combination of Llorente, Muniain and De Marcos flair in the first-leg as so many teams had before them and taking Bilbao’s attacking record into account, will find it hard to restrain the Spanish trio once more.
Los Leones have scored an average of 1.80 goals per game when playing at ‘The Football Cathedral’ this season, contributing to their standing as the fourth most threatening side in the Spanish top flight in terms of attack.
However, Bilbao have only managed to keep a clean sheet in 27% of their home games this campaign and with four away goals already under their belt, defence will surely be a priority come Thursday evening.
Schalke have managed to net an impressive 1.57 times per away fixture on average this season and with Klaas Jan Huntelaar always posing a threat on goal, Die Knappen aren’t out of the European competition yet by any means.
Benedikt Höwedes and Christoph Metzelder remain sidelined through injury, meaning Papadopoulos and Matip are set to retain their centre-back partnership; something the Bilbao attack may prey upon once more.
It should be a superb encounter, with additional Athletic Bilbao Schalke odds available on the game.