Matchday Six of the Europa Leagues comes up on the Thursday and, in many instances, groups are all but decided with a game to spare. The likes of Arsenal and Chelsea will probably field weakened teams in their games, but for Celtic and Rangers it is make or break.
The Glasgow rivals go into the deciding games with their fates well and truly in their own hands but, in their own ways, facing tough tasks.
Celtic need a point against Group B winners Salzburg on Thursday evening to ensure progress. The Scottish champions have turned around what looked a disappointing European campaign by winning their previous two games at home to Leipzig and away in Rosenborg, having lost two of their first three in this group.
Celtic have a strong tradition at home but they are 8/5 to win at Parkhead and this is going to be tough. They are in the driving seat, but also dangerously close to elimination. If Leipzig win against Rosenborg, and Celtic lose, the Bhoys are out. A look at the table shows Salzburg have won five out of five and the Norwegians are pointless, so Brendan Rodgers will be aware of the peril that could face his team.
Any suggestions that the Austrians will come to Glasgow with their foot off the pedal are misplaced. Salzburg will become the first team to win maximum points in a Europa League group on three separate occasions if they win this game. Celtic will be boosted by the news that their visitors have injury worries, while key man Munas Dabbur is a booking away from being suspended and should sit this game out.
The draw is 47/20 and Celtic would take that without kicking a ball. Salzburg are unbeaten in all competitions this season and have scored at least twice in their last three games against Celtic. This will be a fraught evening but Celtic do tend to lift themselves on such nights. A score draw looks the one to take from this, priced at 3/1.
Steven Gerrard and Rangers have already had quite the European marathon this season. The trip to Vienna will be their 14th game of this journey and – should they fail to win – their final stop.
The Light Blues can consider themselves unfortunate perhaps to have landed in Group G alongside Villarreal, Spartak Moscow and Rapid. It is a quartet that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Champion League, on reputation by any rate.
In their 13 European games this season, Gerrard’s side have drawn seven times. Another stalemate is priced at 51/20 this time.
They will be tough to beat but Rangers must defend better. They conceded twice in Villarreal and shipped four in Moscow against Spartak. Gerrard will carry his hopes on the fact that the Gers have scored five times in those two games.
That said, Rapid are on a run of 12 home matches without defeat in the Europa League group stage and they haven’t conceded at home in this group. In truth, seeing the Austrians triumph in Moscow last time was a huge dent to Rangers hopes of progression as it ensured they would have to win here.
They don’t particularly set up to win on the road, and will be seeking to make this tense for the home team and grab something on the counter. A 1-1 draw is 23/4 and Rangers may have to settle for that.
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