Best Odds: 11/4
The UEFA Europa League is back in our lives once again this week as we reach the final phase of games before the group stage gets underway. Many teams will fancy themselves in the push to get over the play-off finish line but courtesy of the first leg results, some are better positioned than others. Today, we’ll take a look at what should be a fascinating clash of styles between AZ Alkmaar of the Eredivisie and Celtic of the Scottish Premiership.
AZ have enjoyed sporadic moments of glory over the years but for the most part, they’ve been forced to play second fiddle to the ongoing rivalry between PSV Eindhoven and Ajax. The pair have controlled Dutch football for the longest time with Alkmaar making up the “best of the rest” standings. This season, however, they feel as if they’ve got a solid base with which to build on both in the league and in Europe – but they need a big showing this week.
The chance to win ten in a row in the league has been and gone with Celtic being dethroned by Rangers last season. Now, they’re back to being a side that can occasionally make waves in the Champions League and Europa League whilst spending most of their time on domestic matters. That doesn’t really seem like a strong enough fit for a team with their potential and size but after a strong first leg, perhaps they’ll believe they can build up some momentum.
Factors to Consider
- Celtic won the first leg 2-0 last week over in Scotland.
- AZ have played just two competitive games so far this season, losing both.
- Celtic have won their last six games in all competitions.
- AZ haven’t scored this season and have conceded three times.
- Celtic have scored 24 goals across their last six games.
AZ haven’t showcased the king of “bounce back resilience” that many Rangers fans would like to see in this one but we do think they’ll give it a good go in their push to usurp power away from Celtic. We’re expecting the Scots to set up in a defensive stance as they attempt to protect their lead, but as the game draws on some tired legs will kick in on both sides, ending in a 1-1 draw that hands Celtic a 3-1 aggregate passage into the group stage.
Best Odds: 11/4
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