IT'S crunch time for Celtic and Rangers in Europe tonight as they both battle for their Europa League lives.
The Hoops are in Germany where they'll likely need to take something from the match against Bayer Leverkusen given group rivals Real Betis are short favourites to beat bottom of the group Ferencvaros in Seville. A draw or a win would set up a blockbuster night for Ange Postecoglou's side on Matchday 6 when Betis travel to Glasgow.
It'll be a tough task for the Bhoys though if the first leg is anything to go by when Leverkusen left Celtic Park with all three points thanks to a 4-0 win, which in fairness flattered them a bit. But Celtic look a team transformed since then, winning eight of their last nine matches including two impressive victories over Ferencvaros.
Despite a poor record on their travels Celtic have a terrific record of scoring, and first, and early, in recent times. A goal inside the first 25 minutes appeals at 5/6 with Bet365. 18 goals have been scored in Celtic's four games in the Europa League so far and there could be more on the cards at the BayArena. 8/15 is too short to back on its own but could make half of a good priced double.
For Rangers the picture is a little clearer; a win by two goals or more against Sparta Prague would put them out of reach of their Czech rivals and into the knock-out stages. Defeat would make for a nervy final round of fixtures where they may need to rely on Sparta avoiding defeat at home to Brondby in order to qualify for the Europa Conference League.
It'll be new manager Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's first match in charge at Ibrox and he's going to have picked up his squad following a shock defeat in Sunday's League Cup semi-final which compounded the loss of talismanic boss Steven Gerrard. A big night and a big performance is required tonight but you couldn't confidently back them at 4/5 given the mood around the camp at the moment.
The Gers defence have been found wanting several times this season, as evidenced by Martin Boyle's Hampden hat-trick so Sparta will fancy their chances of getting on the scoresheet. They're 8/15 to score but it's worth noting that the Gers have conceded first in their last SIX games with all goals coming inside the first 45 and three of those inside the first ten minutes. The Czechs are 13/8 (Bet365) to bag a first-half goal.
Leicester City have some work to do to qualify from Group C but should move a step closer with a win over Legia Warsaw. That would see the Foxes move in to second place but you'd be a brave man to back them at as short as 1/6 following a run of four games without a win.
West Ham on the other hand can sew up top spot in Group H with a win in Vienna. Rapid are toiling in fifth place in the Austrian Bundesliga, 20 points behind RB Salzburg after just 15 matches and as long as David Moyes fields a strong line-up than the 3/5 available on the away win looks solid acca material.
Elsewhere, Lyon who have already qualified could still be valued at 11/10 away to Brondby despite a raft of changes being expected.
Jamie's Thursday Acca features four Europa selections and pays a shade over 6/1.
- Bayer Leverkusen v Celtic – Over 2.5 Goals
- Sparta Prague to score
- Double pays 135/100 at Bet365
Upcoming Match Previews & Tips
- Thu 17:45 Slavia Prague v Feyenoord
- Thu 17:45 Galatasaray v Marseille
- Thu 17:45 Real Betis v Ferencvaros
- Thu 17:45 Lokomotiv Moscow v Lazio
- Thu 17:45 Rapid Vienna v West Ham United
- Thu 17:55 NS Mura v Tottenham Hotspur
- Thu 20:00 Leicester City v Legia Warsaw
- Thu 20:00 Rangers v Sparta Prague
- Thu 20:00 Monaco v Real Sociedad
Today's Racing Tips
Thursday's racing looks extremely poor, so Rizzel has only managed to pick out one selection.
As always, let us know your tips and predictions for today in the comments section below and good luck with all your bets!