IT’S a huge night for Celtic on Wednesday as Celtic go to Azerbaijan looking to progress in the Champions League. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) shares his bets.
Qarabag v Celtic | Wednesday 17:30
What a horrible horrible match this is for Celtic! The Scottish side travel to Azerbaijan on the hunt for a place in the play-off round of the Champions League. It won’t be easy to achieve that.
The Scots did grab a priceless 1-0 win in Glasgow last Wednesday and their clean sheet could be what defines the final outcome of the tie. A 1-0 home win in Europe is now a hugely positive result.
It was far from easy for Celtic though as Qarabag had more possession and corners despite never looking like scoring. At times it looked like Ronny Deila’s side would fail to score as well but an 82nd minute winner from Dedryck Boyata was what separated the sides. Now the teams resume in the cauldron of Baku.
Qarabag have won the last two titles in Azerbaijan and have gradually but noticeably improved in Europe. Two season ago they marched through three qualifying rounds of the Europa League only to lose out to Eintracht Frankfurt in the play-off round. Last season was a much bigger adventure.
Yes, after beating Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 in Baku they then lost 2-0 in Austria in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round to go out on aggregate. That pushed them into the Europa League where they defeated Dutch side Twente in the play-off round to qualify for the group stages.
In their group Qarabaq picked up six points. They beat eventual runners-up Dnipro, drew with Inter and St Etienne (twice). Very strong form in what was a tough group. Celtic picked up eight points in what I think was a softer Europa group.
So to the odds…and yeah you’ve guessed it, I don’t fancy Celtic. Qarabag are 21/10, with the Bhoys just over 6/4. I’d have the home side as very narrow favourites.
This a side that beat Red Bull Salzburg (unlike Celtic) and drew with Inter at home. They also went to Dnipro and won and then watched their opponents go all the way to the Europa League Final. In Celtic’s favour they hardly looked great in the previous round when sneaking past Rudar Pljevlja.
Crucially for me, Celtic have scored in seven of their last eight away games in Europe and if they notch again here then surely the job will be done. When you consider Barcelona and Red Bull Salzburg are among that run of eight then there’s reason to be hopeful they can score here.
I still think Qarabag are overpriced though and will throw them in a bet amongst some Correct Scores. See what you think.
Qarabag v Celtic – Qarabag to win and both teams to score (13/2 Coral)
Qarabag v Celtic – 1-1 Draw (6/1 Paddy Power)
Qarabag v Celtic – Qarabag to win 2-1 (12/1 Coral)