Europa League Dnepr - Club Brugge
In terms of league/playoff action in the interim, Club Brugge have greatly increased their chances of qualifying for the CL domestically and will want to hold on to first place in the Championship Playoffs which will ensure they go straight into the group stage next season, to that end, they face their closest challenger Gent, on the road on Sunday and that is bound to be a distraction for their long trip East to Kiev to meet Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
We have spoken previously about the huge motivation that the Eastern European teams have for this competion and the fitness advantage they hold once past the first knockout stage round , when the benefit of a lengthy winter break starts to kick in and all that will go double with the CL incentive factored in. Dnipro have replaced Metalist as the third big power in Ukranian football and are looking to make inroads into Shakhtar and Dynamo , they are very tight defensively and have not conceded in seven home starts in 2015, or at all in 437 minutes and only twice in 11 home and away starts, keeping a cleansheet in the first leg and in defeating both Ajax and Olympiakos here in Kiev, where they are forced to play home Europa League ties. The hosts have collected a bit of a reputation for the physical side of their game this season, having collected ten yellow cards more than any other team in the competition, but it was their football which caught the eye in the first leg and they were unfortunate not to have come away with a win, after dominated long periods and running Brugge a little ragged through the closing stages. Squad wise, the hosts feel they are in their best shape of the season, having had a lot of injuries to deal with previously and they are now looking to kick on both here and domestically.
CB are a little short handed defensively and have been for some time, when they have opted to rotate from their best available four at the back, it has not worked out well and they can ill afford any injuries and they have a tough choice between today and Sunday. I take Dnipro to edge this, but it is not in their nature to go gung ho from the start and I would like to hold out for a better quote, they have scored four goals in winning their last three "home " EL games without conceding and all came between the 31st-67th minute, three after the break. Brugge have not conceded an away goal in five EL first half starts, so for me, 1.25 units Dnipro -0.5 ball as soon as the asian quote hits 2.25, as long as they are not already leading and we are playing 11 v 11.