British hopes set for a hammering on Thursday
Three British sides are in Europa League action in game week three and it doesn't look promising for any of them.
Everton (7/2 in the betting) get the ball rolling at 18:00 with a tricky looking tie away to Benfica, who are 5/6 jollies to claim the three points on offer, the draw is 23/10.
David Moyes' side have made a solid start in this season's competition and look well set to progress to the knockout stages but beating AEK Athens and BATE Borisov are small fry compared to getting a win in the Estádio da Luz.
Much like the Champions League though, Everton can easily afford to lose this game as they will still have another three matches to ensure their European run continues into the New Year. At the minute it looks like the Europa League will provide the Toffees with their best route back in to Europe for next season as they look to be well off the pace in terms of qualifying through a high league finish - Aston Villa, Man City and Tottenham all seem to be better equipped for a European placing, helped by all three's absence from continental competition this season somewhat.
If Everton can start to convert the chances they have been getting in recent weeks then they could cause problems for Benfica, but as highlighted by the big prices on offer for any of the visiting players to bag the first goal of the match (7/1 Louis Saha, 15/2 Yakubu, 8/1 Tim Cahill and Jo) it doesn't look likely that Quim in the Benfica net will be troubled too much.
You're much better looking to one of the hosts' star men to grab the first goal of the game, Oscar Cardozo in particular has been on fire for Benfica; blasting in 10 goals in his first nine matches of the season - it's no surprise to see him as 5/1 favourite to open the scoring here.
Two matches start at 20:05, with Celtic taking on Hamburg and Fulham entertaining in-form Roma.
Celtic are really struggling to make an impact in their Europa League group and even at this early stage of the competition they can't afford any more slip ups or they'll be looking at an early exit from Europe for the second season running.
The Bhoys were disappointing in their last Celtic Park outing in the league, as well as in Europe, drawing 0-0 with Motherwell despite having 21 shots at John Ruddy in the opposition goal, their lack of creativity was a big cause of concern for Tony Mowbray and if his team don't put that right against Hamburg you can be sure that the Germans will offer more of a threat than Jim Gannon's plucky Motherwell side.
Unfortunately for the Scots I can't see them putting their attacking woes to bed and I'd take 13/10 on Hamburg all day long; even with the Germans likely to be missing some key players, Celtic are 21/10 but it doesn't appeal, not when they've only won one out of their last four games on home turf, their best hope will be a draw - which might not disappoint Bruno Labbadia's team too much with back-to-back home games to come and that's a 9/4 chance.
Scott McDonald (13/2 to strike first) and Georgios Samaras (15/2), should they find their shooting boots, will have to hope that they can take advantage of any communication problems Hamburg may have at the back with important defenders Colin Benjamin, Bastian Reinhardt, Alex Silva and Miroslav Stepanek all set to miss the trip to Glasgow.
With Mladen Petric already sidelined and Paolo Guerrero joining him on a growing Hamburg injury list, the goalscoring responsibilities will lie with Swedish ace Marcus Berg who's an 11/2 shot to notch first, the Scottish crowd will also know all about Eljero Elia as he was the man who scored the winning goal for the Netherlands at Hampden Park just a month ago to knock the Scots out of a play-off spot - the winger is 13/2 to pounce first in this game.
Fulham complete the British contingent of Europa League hopefuls as they lock horns with Roma in what is sure to be a cracking match.
Roy Hodgson's side will realise the enormity of last season's achievements when they welcome the might of Roma to Craven Cottage, as it wasn't too long back that Fulham were on the brink of relegation to the Championship but since that last day escape the Londoners have gone from strength to strength and will feel they can give the Italians a good game.
Sadly for Fulham though, they play Roma just at a time when the capital club are getting back on track in the Serie A, after a poor start to the season which cost Luciano Spalletti his job, while they might've lost to Milan at the weekend they put in a good display and that defeat was their only one in their last six league games.
Fulham are not doing too badly themselves though, and could well have won their last three games were it not for a rather unfortunate late deflection in their recent match with West Ham; as it is they've won two and drawn one of their previous three fixtures, but this is their first big European test and they'll do well to emerge with anything against Claudio Ranieri's team who are regulars on this stage.
You can get 9/5 on the hosts claiming the three points; the draw is priced up at 23/10 while Roma; who have scored in all-bar-one of their 14 games this season, are attractive at 6/4.
Bobby Zamora (13/2 to open the scoring) and Diomansy Kamara (7/1) lifted some of the pressure on injury-hit frontman Andy Johnson (13/2) by both getting on the score sheet in their comfortable win over Hull on Monday night, these two will again shoulder the responsibility as it looks like Johnson won't make it for the visit of the Italian giants.
Plenty of people have hit the back of the net for Roma in this campaign, but none more than club legend Franceso Totti who's hit a staggering 16 goals in 12 games so far this season (admittedly 10 of them came against weak qualifying opposition), the World Cup winner is 5/1 to get the first of the evening. A good each way shout could be Daniele De Rossi (11/1) though who's scored five goals in 13 appearances this season.
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