Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 4/9
This week, another round of European matches are being played, and after the Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Europa League comes on Thursday. In Group H, AC Milan will be hoping to secure passage to the knockout stages in the fifth round when they host Celtic at the San Siro.
The Rossoneri have been sensational in the Serie A this season, and they look well on course to win their first league title after a decade of the supreme reign of fierce rivals Juventus. They sit top of the table with a five-point gap between them and second-place city rivals Inter and surprise third-place Sassuolo after nine games played.
Things haven’t exactly been as smooth in the Europa League though. After four rounds, Stefano Pioli’s side sit second to Lille with with seven points, having lost at home to the French side 0-3 and drawn 1-1 against them away. Both of these matches came after beating Celtic 1-3 in Scotland and hammering Sparta at home by 3-0.
So, Lille lead the pack with eight points, Milan are second with seven, and Sparta are right on their heels with six. Celtic are at the bottom with just one and without any chance of progressing from the group. It means that Milan need to win this match and hope for Lille to beat Sparta in France, as seems likely enough – that would mean the place in the knockout stages would be secured. Otherwise, it would all come down to the final round when they play Sparta in Prague.
Milan have won three of their last six matches in all competitions, drawing two and losing one.
Pioli, who won’t be present at the match himself after testing positive to Covid-19 last week, will be without several important attackers, most notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The incredible Swede is injured, as are Samu Castillejo and Rafael Leao. It means Alexis Saelemaekers is likely to start along with Ante Rebic and Hakan Calhanoglu – the same attacking trio that started in the 2-0 win over Fiorentina on Sunday.
Having won the Scottish Premiership for nine seasons in a row, it isn’t looking good for Celtic at the moment. They’ve played 13 matches so far – two less than Rangers, but they are looking at the backs of their arch-rivals across a gap of no less than 11 points.
It’s even worse in the Europa League where, as has been said above, they are without any chance of progressing to the knockout stages. It’ll be all about pride for Neil Lennon’s team when take the road to the San Siro – they have nothing else to play for.
Speaking of Lennon, the manager is under huge pressure right now and even he himself fully understands why. Speaking to press ahead of the game, he was asked about the prospect of getting the sack.
“Not in my heart of hearts but I could understand if that would have been the case, yes,” he said.
“I am very grateful (for the backing). They are not a board that sack managers for the sake of it. We have had great success, we are going through a tough time but they don’t leave you out in the lurch.”s
Lennon won’t be able to call upon star midfielder James Forrest who won’t be back from an ankle injury for a few weeks yet. Otherwise, the boss will have the squad at his disposal, but he might choose to rotate his team given that the match has no competitive importance for them.
Even without Ibrahimovic and the rest of the absentees, Milan shouldn’t have any difficulty in beating the demotivated Celtic team comprehensively at the San Siro on Thursday, though a high score line doesn’t seem very likely.
Verdict: Total goals under 2.5
Best odds: 17/10
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