As in the Champions League, home advantage matters enormously in the Europa League and doubly so in the qualifying rounds, when many teams have not even started their seasons. There is always the chance for a lesser-ranked team to catch one of the bigger names unawares and with 29 third-round qualifying matches on Thursday, there are some good betting opportunities.
First, though, the advantage of those at home and some odds that look on the generous side. Dinamo Minsk take on CFR Cluj of Romania and there's no real reason I can see for them being odds-on in a match they ought to win, on paper. Playing at home just makes it more likely and the Belarussian champions should be backed at 5/4 with bet365.
Now to the value. Rosenborg have been a favourite of many punters in European competition over the past 20 years due to their outstanding home record and tendency to at least match some of the bigger sides when playing in Norway. The Norwegian first division is well under way and though Rosenborg lie only fifth, they look a big price to win at 9/4 away to Karabukspor of Turkey. The home side will be making their European debut and though that obviously means they did well last season, they are raw at this level and furthermore, the Turkish season has yet to begin. It's hard to see them firing on all cylinders and their coach has already said their aim is to keep a clean sheet. Rosenborg don't exactly bang in the goals but they may need only one, so the 9/4 with bet365 looks nice.
Likewise, Molde, who lead the Norwegian table by a country mile. They travel to Ukraine to face Zorya and they again look a big price at 6/4 against opponents who are hardly used to football at this level. Molde have not lost since April, have won five of their past six matches and have the experience, the form and the confidence to come away with a win from their first leg.
Finally to the last set of friendlies this weekend and even without Luis Suarez, it seems Liverpool are beginning to get themselves together going into the new season. A good draw with Manchester City -- and victory on penalties -- will have done them no harm and they should have enough firepower to see off AC Milan in Georgia. Anything better than evens is worth taking with bet365.