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Europa League - Football: Preview

There are ten Europa League playoff round ties to be played on Thursday night with a place in the group stage the prize on the line.

Hearts and Shamrock Rovers are among the sides going into Thursday night's crunch second-leg ties, matches that will determine who progresses to the group stage of the Europa League and who is demoted to the Europa Conference League.

WhatHearts v FC Zurich
WhereTynecastle, Edinburgh
When20:00, Thursday 25th August
How to watchBBC Scotland

Hearts 7/5, FC Zurich 17/10, Draw 12/5

Tense Tynecastle could still see goals

Hearts' quest to qualify for the Europa League group stage for the first time since 2004/05 will be decided at a sold-out, rocking Tynecastle where they will have to beat FC Zurich to have any chance.

The first leg last week in Switzerland ended in a 2-1 win for Franco Foda's team with Adrian Guerrero and Blerim Dzemaili cancelling out Lawrence Shankland's opener from the penalty spot.

Hearts are 7/5 to win the second leg and 9/4 to qualify though the bet could well be over 2.5 goals at 21/20.

This is Zurich's sixth European tie this year, the previous five yielding 18 goals and with Hearts having to be positive and leaving Foda's side chances on the counter, it could turn open with the prospect for plenty of goals.

Interestingly, the Swiss side have played five league games this season and won none of them, though you suspect they are focused on Europe and the 17/10 pokes are better than their league form infers.

WhatAEK Larnaca v Dnipro-1
WhereAEK Arena, Larnaca, Cyprus
When17:00, Thursday 25th August
How to watchbet365's Sports Live Streaming platform

AEK Larnaca 19/20, Dnipro-1 5/2, Draw 13/5

Ukraine joy to be short-lived

Football returned to Ukraine at the weekend with the first Premier League fixtures since December taking place.

Dnipro-1 will have to wait until Sunday for their first domestic match – a showdown with Dynamo Kiev – with a trip to Cyprus to come first to see if they can overturn a first-leg defeat by AEK Larnaca.

That 2-1 loss was a tough one for Dnipro to stomach though, in all honesty, hardly a massive surprise given it was their first competitive game since December and was played on neutral territory in Slovakia.

Turning this tie around looks hard because AEK, one of three Cypriot sides playing at this stage, have looked hugely impressive under new Spanish boss Jose Luis Oltra, who has restaffed them, reshaped them and they look a genuine threat.

They haven't actually lost a match in Europe thus far, going out of the Champions League to Midtjylland on penalties after a pair of draws, and then seeing off Partizan Belgrade 4-3 on aggregate in the past round.

Both teams have scored in each of their five ties to date and it's 10/11 that happens again, while there's a temptation to back the 15/4 Larnaca win and both teams to score.

WhatShamrock Rovers v Ferencvaros
WhereTallaght Stadium, Dublin
When20:00, Thursday 25th August
How to watchRTE2

Shamrock Rovers 12/5, Ferencvaros 1/1, Draw 5/2

No shame for Shamrock

Shamrock Rovers have won all three home ties in Europe this season to give them hope they can at least restore some pride at home to Ferencvaros.

The tie is beyond them after their 4-0 drubbing in Budapest, a match in which the Hoops managed to garner just one corner and attempt three shots.

The Europa Conference League is very definitely Shamrock's destination for the autumn and it's hard to muster much enthusiasm for them at 12/5 to win on Thursday.

They'll look back to the 2-1 win over Ludogorets last month in the Champions League having already lost 3-0 in Razgrad a week before as some sort of inspiration, though the task looks well beyond them.

One of the most competitive betting heat sees 17/10 shots Sivasspor attempt to overturn a 3-1 deficit at home to Malmo, who are 11/8. There's a perception that Turkish sides at home are always strong, though it's not always borne out by stats and anyway, Sivasspor haven't won any of their five matches this season so aren't easy to fancy against the well-drilled Swedes.

For a bit of value, how about Limassol draw no bet at 7/2 at Olympiacos. Limassol, as mentioned earlier, are one of three Cypriot sides still involved which shows the island's league system is looking healthy at the moment, while the Greek powers have yet to win any of their five European matches played this summer.

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