Thursday, August 16, 2018

Prediction: Celtic vs AEK Athens

Verdict: Celtic win and over 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 11/5

Bookmaker: Bet365

Celtic continue their quest for the Champions League group stages with a tie against AEK Athens. Brendan Rodgers’ side have already seen off Alashkert and Rosenborg to reach this stage, whilst the Greeks enter the competition after topping the Super League last term. The Hoops will be desperate to make an early statement as a win over the tw0 legs will see them land a favorable tie against either Malmo of Sweden or the Hungarian side, MOL Vidi.

Celtic

Starting with Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side, after once again rewriting the record books at Celtic Park last season, the former Liverpool boss became the first manager in the history of the Scottish Premiership to win back to back clean sweeps of all three domestic crowns. With some arguing that they have a strong case to be the greatest Scottish side in history, Rodgers also holds a stellar record in European qualifiers during his tenure in Glasgow. In fact, Celtic have won all eight of their Champions League qualifying games under Rodgers and will rightfully enter Wednesday’s first leg as the clear favorite. With an incredibly favorable tie awaiting for the winner, The Hoops will be looking to continue to kick on from their league opener last weekend. Putting three past Livingston at Celtic Park, along with now winning their last five home matches on the bounce, scoring three or more in each victory, one man in particular to watch will be 20-year-old Odsonne Edouard. With Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele missing, the youngster has impressed and after scoring a brace against Rosenborg, Edouard now has three in his last three for Celtic.

Team News

Jozo Simunovic returns from his two-game suspension and is in line to start in central defense. Striker Leigh Griffiths is nearing a return to fitness, whilst Mikael Lustig and Tom Rogic are now back with the squad following their World Cup exploits. However, The Hoops will be without the likes of Moussa Dembele who hasn’t overcome an injury issues. However,  Olivier Ntcham is expected to feature after getting the all clear following a knock on his ankle.

AEK Athens

As for the newly crowned Greek champions, while Alashkert and Rosenborg didn’t provide much resistance up against The Hoops, AEK have gained plenty of plaudits following an eye-catching domestic run and they were also undefeated in the Europa League last season before being dumped by Dynamo Kiev in the last 32 on away goals. After collecting their first Greek Super League title since 1994, AEK were shocked to see manager Manolo Jimenez make the switch to Spanish side Las Palmas, with Marinos Ouzounidis coming in from Panathinaikos. Although the visitors might have romped to victory last season, finishing with a six-point buffer at the head of the table, AEK do have a tendency to struggle away from Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis. Despite putting three past Turkish powerhouses Galatasaray in a friendly matchup last week and ending their four-match winless run, Athens have now failed to win any of their last three matches on the road and more worrying, they have not found the net in any of those outings.

Team News

The visitors have been struck with an injury blow before they face Celtic with key Argentinian striker Ezequiel Ponce a doubt for the trip to Glasgow. The talented youngster, who is on loan from Roma, suffered a cut face in training and has had to get several stitches inserted into the wound. Along with Ponce, Dmitry Tsigrinski and Yorgos Yanutsos are also both definitely out after suffering long-term injuries this season.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The former Liverpool boss is yet to lose any of his eight qualifiers during his tenure at Celtic Park.
  • In Celtic’s last five home matches they have now scored 14 goals.
  • AEK have failed to score in their last three matches on the road.
  • Forward Odsonne Edouard now has three in his last three appearances for Celtic, including a brace against Rosenborg in the last round of qualifying.
  • This is the first ever meeting between the two sides.

Conclusion

Although this will undoubtedly be the most difficult tie for the defending Scottish champions, we do believe that The Hoops stunning qualifying record cannot be overlooked. With AEK now finding the net in their last three matches away from Greece, it is hard to see them breaking down a Celtic side who have impressed at both ends of the pitch. Now scoring 14 goals in their last five matches in Glasgow, with it also being reported World Cup star Dedryck Boyata could be tempted to turn down a move to the Premier League, we’re backing the hosts to put on another clinical performance in midweek. You can also get 20-year-old Odsonne Edouard to find the net anytime for 8/5 on Wednesday.

Verdict: Celtic win and over 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 11/5

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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