Bhoys look to finish eastern mission

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Celtic head for St Petersburg on Thursday evening seeking to complete what had seemed an unlikely Europa League last-32 success just a week ago.

The Scottish champions were handed a tough task in facing Zenit, leading scorers in the group stages, especially with the second leg being in Russia.

Brendan Rodgers’ side were expected to struggle against free-spending, and free-scoring, Zenit. However, Roberto Mancini’s outfit were made to look more than a bit ordinary in the first game in Glasgow.

The Hoops controlled the game and really ought to be armed with more of an advantage than the one Callum McGregor’s controlled finish afforded them late in the game.

Now comes the acid test, with Zenit 4/7 to win the second leg on home soil.

Celtic’s 3-0 win over Anderlecht in September will be the template Rodgers attempts to build from. Then, his side defended assuredly and made the most of their breakaways to punish the home team.

A goal in Russia would tilt this tie heavily in Celtic’s favour. Coming out of their winter break last week, Zenit appeared more than a bit rusty. The Scottish champions have enough about them to score, the draw looks a fair call at 3/1.

Lazio went down by a single goal in Bucharest last week again Steaua. The Serie A side ended a run of three straight defeats over the weekend by defeating Verona 2-0. Steaua meanwhile have never scored on Italian soil, making Lazio a solid proposition to move into the last-16 at odds of 10/17.

Leipzig are enjoying their maiden European campaign. Having had doubts over Napoli’s desire to go further in this competition last week, it now looks a forlorn hope that the Serie A title contenders will extend their interest beyond Thursday evening.

Leipzig won 3-1 in Naples a week ago, ensuring they have one foot firmly in the next round. Napoli’s primary concern is the Italian title race, the Germans should complete the job in good style by winning the second leg at odds of 5/7.

There were just four draws from the 16 games played last week in the Europa League, none producing more goals than the four shared by Real Sociedad and Salzburg in San Sebastian.

Prior to that game, Sociedad’s three most recent La Liga games had produced 18 goals. Over the weekend they overcame Levante 3-0. The goals should continue to flow in this finely balanced tie and so over 3.5 goals in the second leg is put forward at 6/4.

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