SIX British teams are attempting to reach the Europa League group stage – and some have a better chance than others.
English leading lights Liverpool and Man City should progress without incident while Aston Villa should join them but will be tested against Rapid Vienna. Celtic will hope to see off Utrecht while Scottish Premiership rivals Dundee United and Motherwell will have to be at their very best to take care of AEK Athens and Odense. The sixth British side are TNS but this is where the adventure ends for the Welsh minnows who tackle CSKA Sofia.
For big-spending City failure is not an option and they should stroll to victory against Timisoara who finished fifth in the Romanian league last season. However, best price on Roberto Mancini's men to win away is 4-6 with boylesports.
Liverpool are 2-7 bankers at boylesports to take care of Trabzonspor at Anfield and should romp to victory.
Villa are in action against a Rapid Vienna that knocked them out on away goals last season on away goals. However, Martin O'Neill fielded weakened sides but caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald will take it more seriously. Villa might have to settle for a draw in Austria but will have backers at 7-4.
Celtic have already been knocked out of Europe once this season so will be desperate to get the better of Utrecht. The Dutch finished a lowly seventh in their league last season and shouldn't have the quality to trouble in front of a packed Parkhead. Take them at a best 4-5 with Betfred while totesport make the Hoops 4-6 to qualify. The Dutch are 4-1 with William Hill for a shock victory tonight and 5-4 with Ladbrokes and Paddy Power to qualify.
With Gary Hooper injured the onus will be on Georgios Samaras to score and the Greek striker is 11-2 with Skybet to break the deadlock. Shaun Maloney impressed in the SPL opener and could be a better shout at 10-1 with Ladbrokes. Celtic's main problem has been keeping clean sheets so Utrecht will fancy their chances of nicking one and both teams to score pays 4-5 with William and Bet365.
Dundee United are also at home but face a tougher task against an AEK Athens side who have never lost a tie to a Scots outfit. Greek football's troubles are well documented but AEK will still pose a massive hurdle to United and I expect them to qualify. I'm sure they'd settle for a draw at Tannadice – especially if it's a scoring one – then try to win in it Greece. United are 21-10 with Bet365 to win at Tannadice with the Greeks 7-5 at Coral and the draw 23-10 with the same firm. To qualify United are 5-2 with Ladbrokes and AEK 2-5 at 888sport.
Motherwell have fared well so far but Odense, 8-11 with Coral, are a step up in class from Breidablik and Aaeslunds. That's reflected in the price so when you see Well at a biggest 9-2 at boylesports to win in Denmark you've got to fear for their lives and Craig Brown's men will do well to keep the tie alive.
Punters will look at the card and be tempted to throw in nine or 10 hot picks on their accas but don't be too greedy. The likes of Feyenoord should be too strong for Gent at home while Palermo can KO Hibs' conquerors Maribor. Getafe are nicely priced at 8-15 with Paddy Power at home to APOEL and Juventus should continue their Euro comeback with a win at Sturm Graz.
Porto are past winners of the UEFA Cup and Champions League and always put out strong sides. They travel to Genk and should see off the Belgians. When you're looking at the short-priced favourites one to avoid could be Galatasaray at home to Ukrainians Karpaty who have lost none of their six previous Euro ties.
- Man City, Odense, PSG, Feyenoord, Getafe, Juventus
- Perm any 5 and all 6 (7 bets)
- Porto (1-1, Blue Square)
- Celtic 3, Utrecht 1 (14-1, William Hill)