IT’S crunch time for Celtic as they aim to reach the Champions League group stages against Malmo on Wednesday. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) looks at the odds.
Malmo v Celtic | Tuesday 19:45 | BT Sport Europe
13 months into the job and this is Ronny Deila’s biggest game in charge. Failure to qualify for the Champions League group stages for the second successive season would be an infamous first for the club and bring a huge (perhaps immoveable) stain onto Deila.
His club’s task is a stiff one. Ex-player Jo Inge Berget’s late goal in the opening leg turned the scoreline from a dominant 3-1 win to an awkward looking narrow 3-2 victory. Celtic now almost certainly have to avoid defeat to go through.
How good are Malmo at home though? Well it’s a mixed bag. If we look at their Champions League campaigns last season and this the figures read P8 W4 D2 L2.
The defeats were against Juventus and Atletico Madrid so no shame there, but two draws against Ventspils and Zalgiris Vilnius offer Celtic real hope. Flip it round though and the Swedes have enjoyed wins over Olympiakos, Red Bull Salzburg (twice) and Sparta Prague. All those wins were by more than one goal. Red Bull were beaten 3-0 on both occasions.
Celtic also mingled with Red Bull last season in the Europa League and came out second best. A 2-2 draw in the opening Europa League group matchday in Austria was followed by a 3-1 loss at Celtic Park two months later.
The Scottish side look to have progressed under Deila over the last year though and have done really well in this competition so far. A narrow two leg win over Qarabag deserves plaudits. The Azerbaijan side won 1-0 in Switzerland on Thursday against Young Boys in the Europa League and have produced a number of solid performances in Europe.
I’d love to think Deila can mastermind a defensive shutout on Wednesday night and smother Malmo out the tie but then when you balance that up with Malmo’s excellent home form (unbeaten in nine) it’s such a tough game to call.
For once this season, I’m going to have faith in Celtic here and back the draw at a rather large 13/5 with Bet365. This is Deila’s biggest test yet as Celtic manager. Let’s hope, in the same vein as their performance in Azerbaijan, he can force the draw and take Celtic back into the promised land.
Malmo v Celtic – Draw (13/5 Bet365)
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