IT’S another fascinating night in the Champions League with 10 more sides trying to qualify for the group stage.
Last night Man City showed their class with a 5-0 romp in Romania and Monchengladbach proved it was men against Young Boys as they won 3-1 in Switzerland – the other there ties are in the balance.
Tonight some big names are involved and there will be some big clubs falling into the Europa League.
So let’s start with Celtic v Hapoel Beer Sheva. Brendan Rodgers was brought in for two reasons – see off Rangers and qualify for the Champions League.
We’ll know the answer to the second one soon and after a false start it’s gone well for the Irishman in the qualifiers.
Red Imps and Astana haven’t been seen off with the greatest of ease but Celtic are improving with every game.
Up front Scott Sinclair has added a bit of quality and at the back Efe Ambrose has finally been dumped with Eoghan O’Connell coming of age and Kolo Toure adding experience. Erik Sviatchenko may return tonight but if not O’Connell will keep his place.
At this stage of the competition there are no easy games but Celtic should be able to take care of Hapoel Beer Sheva.
The Israelis are a hard-working, well-organised side who dumped Olympiakos in the last round and that result has to be respected.
But with Sinclair on board and Leigh Griffiths already in the goals Celtic should take a lead to Israel – and that might be enough to get the job done.
There’s always a worry Celtic will concede as they did in Gibraltar and at home to Astana but Hapoel are not a high-scoring side and a home win to nil is 13-8 at McBookie.
Suggestions from the camp are they’ll sit in and try to frustrate Celtic so under 2.5 goals looks a shout at 43-40 with bet365.
Team of the tournament have been Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk who face Legia Warsaw for a dream spot in the groups.
The Irish champions shocked BATE 3-0 at home in the previous round and face the Poles in front of a massive crowd at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium
For me this is a match too far for a side that have battled brilliantly to reach this stage. Taking the game to a huge stadium will play into the hands of the Poles who are much better than BATE and the Belarusians outshot the Irish 34-14 but had no cutting edge.
Two of the biggest ties are Porto v Roma and Villarreal v Monaca and while neither are easy to call the home sides are strong in front of their fans.
Porto have won seven of their last nine Champions League home ties and started the season with a 3-1 win at Rio Ave while Roma have only played friendlies. They’ve sold star man Miralem Pjanic to Juventus and I’d side with Porto at 13-10 with Betfred although both sides could score at 1-1 with boylesports.
Valencia beat Monaco 4-3 on aggregate at this stage last summer and there could be goals again when the French side return to Spain. Both to score pays 23-20 at William Hill.
The final tie sees Ludogerets face Viktoria Plzen with the match moved to Sofia. There isn’t much between two sides who both won on away goals in the previous round.
The Bulgarians are missing a couple of players but while they battled past Red Star Belgrade it was Qarabag who Plzen drew twice with and Ludogerets look the stronger side. Take them at 13-10 with bet365.
Bets to Consider
Celtic to win to nil
Nikolic to score
Porto & btts
Villarreal v Monaco btts
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