(Live on Setanta Ireland, Tue – 7:40pm)
Celtic travel to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona on Tuesday knowing that the odds are firmly stacked against them. The Hoops registered 5 goals away to St. Mirren at the weekend, a victory which should be nothing more than a mild confidence booster heading into Tuesday’s clash. Celtic sit second in Group G after a 0-0 draw with Benfica which was followed by a terrific 3-2 away win to Spartak Moscow. A draw on Tuesday would be a historic result for the Bhoys and realistically it is all they can hope for. Brown, Commons, Forrest and Samaras have all travelled, but there are doubts surrounding their full fitness.
Barcelona are unsurprisingly top of the group and they will be looking to wrap up qualification as soon as possible. After a 5-4 victory against Deportivo La Coruna, they have confirmed what many of us believe – they are vulnerable defensively but have no problem scoring goals. Barca will be without Busquets through suspension, Puyol and Alves are injured while Pique is trying to recover from a foot injury in time. Any injuries within the camp only serve as an opportunity for emerging talent to show what they can do.
Angle: Celtic will attempt to frustrate Barcelona by sitting deep and closing off the space in the middle. They will have to give up the space on the outside as a result and will try to deal with any crosses that come into the box, much like Chelsea did with success here last season. The difference here is that Celtic don’t pose the same threat on the counter as Chelsea did and Barcelona will be able to commit that extra player forward. Celtic are rarely starved of possession, but they will be on Tuesday. I can see them holding out until half-time, maybe even conceding a goal, but they are highly likely to feel the pinch in the second half and Barcelona’s patient style can pay off by them scoring a few goals.
Betting Recommendation: 2nd Half to be Highest Scoring Half @ Evens with Setantabet.com
Liverpool -v- Anzhi
(Live on Setanta Sports 1, Thu – 7:30pm)
Liverpool go into this match as favourites at 6/5 to get the job done. Anzhi are priced at 11/5 and the draw at 9/4. Liverpool at home have been the subject of a serious overestimation with regard to the betting markets of late. They have been priced up as if they were a top 4 Premier League team. The reality is that Brendan Rodgers’ new style is going to take time to take effect and Liverpool’s squad lacks the strength in depth required to seriously compete twice per week. The striker crisis means that the weight of the world rests on the shoulders of Luis Suarez and 17-year-old Raheem Sterling. With Everton coming up on Sunday, Liverpool are unlikely to take risks and may well rest a number of key players. This could prove costly against Anzhi Makhachkala who sit on top of the Russian Premier League after twelve games. The Russians who are managed by Guus Hiddink have been the subject of heavy investment over the past couple of years and they can boast the world’s highest paid player in Samuel Eto’o. The Russian League has been improving and should not be underestimated.
Angle: Liverpool have once again been overestimated here, particularly for a Europa League match. This match won’t be a priority for the Reds and Anzhi will be fired up for it. Anzhi represent great value at a price of 11/5 and they are without doubt capable of beating Liverpool in Anfield. But given their relative inexperience in European competition, you might want to protect yourself from losing out to a draw match.
Betting Recommendation: Anzhi (Draw No Bet) @ 5/4 with Setantabet.com