Fulham to make mincemeat out of Hamburger
After being serial under-dogs throughout this year's Europa League, Fulham are now on the verge of making the final, all they need is a 90 minute victory over manager-less Hamburg and they have pulled off a minor miracle.
Even with a volcanic ash cloud hanging over Europe in Fulham's preparation for the first leg, they managed a very impressive 0-0 draw - mainly thanks to some impressive work between the sticks from Mark Schwarzer.
Hamburg are currently 7th in the German Bundesliga and after they followed up the goalless first leg with a 5-1 defeat away to Hoffenheim, their manager Bruno Labbadia was sacked. Ricardo Moniz, a member of the coaching staff will take control for this leg.
If you take the turmoil in the Hamburg camp, despite their undoubted talent, and add it to Fulham's solid home record I think Fulham are a great bet to advance to the final.
Fulham are 23/20 to win the match, but you can also cover your back by taking the Evens on Fulham to qualify for the final by any means.
Hamburg are 12/5 to win in 90 minutes and 8/11 to qualify, considering the only way it can go to extra time is another stalemate, if you fancy Hamburg I would just stick to the 90 minute price.
Form and fitness will play a big part in this match, another thing that makes me lean towards Fulham. Both teams lost their matches between the first and second legs but the manner in which Hamburg lost 5-1 then losing their manager will put them in the wrong frame of mind coming in to this match.
Fulham rested eight players from the first leg and still put in a decent performance, only losing 2-1 due to an injury-time penalty.
That match was their first loss in seven and their comfortable mid-table position has enabled them to fully focus their efforts on conquering Europe.
Hamburg have struggled to get a player who consistently bags the goals all season. No player has managed more than six goals in the league. Ruud Van Nistelrooy has hardly set the world alight, bagging three goals in his nine league appearances.
The big worry for Fulham in terms of team news is the worry that top-scorer Bobby Zamora may not be fit. He hobbled off in the first leg with an Achilles injury and remains a doubt for the match.
Without him, goals are sparse in the squad in the league but in Europe - Zoltan Gera has bagged an impressive five goals already in the competition. Gera looks a good price to open the scoring at 15/2 or 9/4 any time.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy is the favourite to open the scoring for the visitors, 9/2 is the price for him to do so. For a better price I recommend Mladen Petric, the Croatian has five goals in Hamburg's last six Europa League matches and 15/2 to open the scoring or 9/4 anytime certainly looks a good bet.
I reckon Fulham could easily qualify for the final, they have lost just one in their last eleven at Craven Cottage and although it's a bit tougher without Zamora, they still have the quality to overcome a demoralised Hamburg side.
I reckon it will be tight though, the 2-1 scoreline is where my money will be going and at 15/2 it would be a nice payday too.