Best Odds: 12/5
While last season’s UEFA Champions League competition may still be ongoing, there’s no time to waste as we look ahead to the brand new campaign. Many domestic leagues around the world are already starting to get things going in regards to the 2020/21 season, and the same is true in Europe. The UCL is back with the first qualifying round getting underway this week, and one of the featured games will see NK Celje attempt to take down Dundalk in what could be a really fun tie.
‘Sporadic’ is the word of the day for Celje when it comes to how frequently, or infrequently, they’ve been playing lately. Back in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic really struck the continent, they continued their fantastic unbeaten run with a 3-0 win over Olimpija. Then, in May, they edged past Triglav in a narrow 2-1 success. They got going again in August, and while they have picked up wins over Radomlje, Drava and Koper, they struggled in a 3-0 friendly loss to Dinamo Zagreb.
There is very little European experience in Celje’s ranks, with Rozman being the only player to have any European experience with four UEL appearances. Marandici is their most notable senior international, but aside from that, not much is known about them.
Prior to lockdown, Dundalk suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Shamrock Rovers before managing to bounce back with a nice 4-0 triumph over Finn Harps. Their first game post-restart was a 1-1 draw against St Patrick’s Athletic, followed up by a surprising 2-1 loss to Bohemians. They then had consecutive games against Waterford, beating them in the FAI Cup 1-0 before fighting back to earn a dramatic 2-2 draw in the League of Ireland.
Hoban and Cleary will hope to feature after their heroics on Friday night, with the hope being that Dundalk will be able to field their strongest possible starting XI for this crucial encounter.
Factors to Consider
- This game will be part of the first qualifying round, which will take place before last season’s final has even been played.
- Celje have won five and lost one of their last six games.
- Dundalk have won two, drawn two and lost two of their last six games.
- Celje have scored 13 goals and conceded four in their last six games.
- Dundalk have scored 11 goals and conceded eight in their last six games.
At the start of what is bound to be a long and tough campaign, you can tell there are going to be a few games that come under the ‘feeling out process’ description. Dundalk are tough and always seem capable of dragging teams into a firefight, and that’s exactly what we’re expecting from this clash. It isn’t going to be pretty and it probably won’t flow particularly well, but we do believe that the end result will be a draw in normal time, and in extra time, Dundalk will just about be able to get the job done.
Best Odds: 12/5
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