Europa League: Celtic and Rangers still have work to do in Round of 32 deciders
Ahead of an important midweek for both Glasgow clubs in the Europa League, Frankie Monkhouse picks out the best bets for their respective second legs...
Europa League Round of 32 second leg matches take place this midweek with teams battling for a place in the latter stages on Wednesday and Thursday. Followers of UK football have a healthy interest with five British sides involved.
Glasgow giants Celtic and Rangers aim to continue their European adventures, but both still have work to do if they are to make it through. Rangers travel to Braga on Wednesday clutching to a fragile 3-2 aggregate lead, Celtic protecting a 1-1 draw achieved in Copenhagen.
Rangers can protect first leg lead
Sporting Braga v Rangers Wednesday, 17:00 Live on BT Sport
Sporting Braga played their part in what was a memorable evening in Govan when losing 3-2 at Ibrox in the first leg. Rúben Amorim's in form side, who finished fourth in Primeira Liga last season and were sitting third heading to Glasgow on the back of a recent unbeaten run, raced into a two-goal lead to stun the Scots. In a frantic, end-to-end contest, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock, Rodrigues Barbosa crashing home a stunning opener on 11 minutes.
The lead gave Braga confidence while frustrating the bulk of those inside the stadium. They made it 2-0 just before the hour when Abel Ruiz sprinted clear to slot his side into a commanding position. It looked game, set and match but Steven Gerrard's crew can never be written off, especially with the backing of a capacity crowd creating an electric atmosphere. Within 15 minutes Rangers stole a dramatic lead thanks to goals from Joe Aribo and Ianis Hagi. Braga are now 20/23 favourite on the Betfair Sportsbook in the match betting.
Braga set-up at home knowing they must win to progress but they scored twice at Ibrox and boast great recent from. The locals were last seen hammering Vitoria Setubal 3-1 at this venue on Sunday. The perfect preparation.
The Rangers loyal have witnessed some thrilling European nights at Ibrox since Gerrard took charge but none come close to what the support witnessed on Thursday. With the team 2-0 down, the tie seemingly dead and buried and confidence low, a sporting miracle was needed. It was delivered. Young attacker Hagi - son of Gheorghe Hagi and on loan from Genk - fired a reply on 67 minutes. A goal completely of his own making but it appeared to most to be little more than a consolation.
When teammate Aribo danced through the Braga defence to equalise, the tide began to turn. Rangers were awarded a freekick on the edge of the box late in the game. Hagi had the confidence to step up and loop the ball into the net. Rangers may have benefited from a huge deflection for the winning goal but no one in blue seemed to care. They had fought back from 2-0 down to beat a highly rated team who arrived on a winning run. There's still plenty of work to do in Portugal, of course, but Rangers have the advantage. The visitors are 16/5 for the away win, the draw 27/10.
Rangers may have secured the home win against Braga but, in doing so, they lost star striker Alfredo Morelos for the replay. The Columbian picked up a booking and is now suspended. That limits their attacking options and they are now expected to tuck up tight and protect their narrow lead, so a stalemate looks the likeliest result.
Goals likely as Bhoys go for the win
Celtic v Copenhagen Thursday, 20:00 Live on BT Sport
On Thursday attentions shift to Parkhead where Scottish champions Celtic welcome Copenhagen to Glasgow. Neil Lennon's Hoops claimed an impressive 1-1 draw from the first leg, scoring a vital away goal. They now sit in a commanding position in the tie but know there's work to do in the second leg if they are to progress. Odsonne Edouard gave Celtic a lead last week, hitting the net after twice being denied. It was a cool finish and deserved lead.
From a commanding position and with an away goal in the bag it looked like the Scots would kick on and give themselves a cushion to take back to Parkhead, but they were matched by their opponents who staged a second half fightback. Dame N'Doye levelled the tie when beating Fraser Forster less than seven minutes after the re-start. More goals looked likely but, at the final whistle, Celtic seemed happy with their scoring draw. Another level finish is 16/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook, a home win the most likely outcome according to traders, available at 4/9.
Celtic played at Parkhead on Sunday and eased to a comfortable 3-1 win over a decent Kilmarnock side. The Bhoys have conceded at least one goal in each of their last three games and that's the worry for home fans.
Copenhagen can cause hosts issues
Copenhagen were written off in the betting despite enjoying home advantage last week. They fell behind to Celtic early in the tie and it looked like they'd be blown away by a hungry and talented opponent. The Danes must be given credit for the way they fought back, however. A better team in the second 45, they equalised through N'Doye and had a chance to snatch it late when winning a penalty following a VAR check.
Ryan Christie handled inside the box and received a booking which will keep him out of this match, a blow for his team. Jens Stage took the resulting spot kick but was denied by a stunning save from Celts stopper Forster to keep the tie level. A missed opportunity and one the Superliga champions are expected to pay for at Celtic Park. The away win on Thursday is an attractive 7/1 but that shouldn't attract too much attention.
Copenhagen understand the size of the job that awaits them in Glasgow but they have the quality needed to trouble Celtic and goals are likely at both ends. Odds-against on three or more goals looks the value play.