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Jon Riley 3rd May 2011 - 10:45

Europa League semi-final 2nd leg previews

Portuguese rivals Benfica and Porto are on course to meet in the Europa League final in Dublin after both teams recorded victories in the first-leg of their respective semi finals.

Falcao scored four goals in a 5-1 demolition of Spanish side Villarreal as Porto all but secured their progression from the semi-finals. Porto currently lead the Portuguese Super Liga by an incredible 21 points from Benfica and are assured of a Champions League berth for next season. It is the Europa League that they are concentrating on at the minute though and the 2003 UEFA Cup and 2004 Champions League winners have a great chance of a domestic and European double.

The ‘Dragoes' can be backed at 13/8 to beat Villarreal at El Madrigal while Falcao is 5/1 to score the opening goal and a whopping 33/1 to repeat his heroics of last week and notch a hat-trick.

Surely a visit to Ireland's Aviva Stadium is out of reach for the Yellow Submarine after the thrashing they received at the Estadio do Dragao. Normally Villarreal are nailed on to win their home matches but for this one they are only priced at 13/10, massive in comparison to what they are usually priced at in La Liga. Cani gave Villarreal a 1-0 lead in Portugal and can be backed at 12/1 to do the same in the second-leg but more sensible money will be going on the Italian Giuseppe Rossi (9/2 first scorer, 6/5 anytime) and the Brazilian Nilmar (5/1 first, 5/4 anytime).

The other semi-final is more finely balanced after Benfica defeated fellow Portuguese team Braga 2-1 in the Estadio da Luz in the first-leg. The two teams cannot by split by the bookmakers as the visitors and Braga, conquerors of Liverpool, are both priced at 6/4.

Benfica dominated proceedings when the two teams met seven days ago and in my opinion should edge this contest. The team from the capital made it to this stage of the competition last season before being eliminated by eventual winners Atletico Madrid, and will draw on that experience to guide them through to the final in Dublin.

Oscar Cardozo's goal settled the first-leg and the Paraguayan striker is 11/2 to break the deadlock in northwest Portugal and 6/4 to score anytime. Cardozo is the darling of the Benfica fans after scoring 66 goals in just 103 games, many of them important winners in vital league and European matches.

Missing for Braga will be Vandinho, the player who's expertly executed diving header had brought the visitors level in the first leg in Lisbon. The players that will be hoping to fill his boots are Rodrigo Lima and Albert Meyong. Both forwards are priced at 6/1 to score the first goal, a goal which would turn the tide of the game.

William Hill have created an enhanced price bet bundle for these two Europa League matches and you can back Porto and Benfica to win at 13/2.

Personally I feel that Villarreal will be on a mission to restore their wounded pride so a double of Villarreal and a draw in the Braga v Benfica game could be the way forward at a price of just over 6/1.



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