Celtic don't need to win on Tuesday when hosting Anderlecht, but will they? Betfair's Scottish football correspondent Frankie Monkhouse thinks there's value in the draw at...
"the stats don’t do much to encourage either, Anderlecht winning by more than three goals only once in nine months."
Edouard stakes claim for starting slot
It's all or nothing for Celtic on Tuesday night when hosting Champions League Group B rivals Anderlecht. The Bhoys go in with a record of one win against four defeats. Well beaten home and away by PSG and Bayern Munich, Brendan Rodgers' side did grab a crucial victory at the Constant Vanden Stock, handing the Scottish champions an advantage in the race for third place, and the consolation of a Europa League safety net.
Griffiths, Roberts and Sinclair were all on target in the reverse of this fixture back in September, Celtic dominating the possession and looking good value for the points. The locals aim to finish the job, but would be happy enough with a share of the spoils, a point enough to keep the Belgians at arm's length. The League Cup winners started December in style, warming up for this decider with a confidence boosting 5-1 win over Motherwell at this venue on Saturday.
Despite making a list of changes to the starting line-up, those coming into the team staked their claim for a regular slot, especially young French attacker Odsonne Edouard. The 19-year-old, on loan from PSG, netted a stylish hat-trick to help stretch his employer's unbeaten domestic run to 67 matches. If handed a start on Tuesday, he'll be eager to pick up where he left off, and can be backed at 13/10 (Betfair Sportsbook) in the anytime scorer market.
Visitors' form makes them difficult to trust
It has already been a Champions League campaign to forget for Anderlecht and their fans. The Belgian First Division champions, now under the guidance of manager Hein Vanhaezebrouck, have failed to pick up a point from five starts at this level, showing five games, five defeats, one goal scored, 17 conceded. They may have one final shot at getting something out of the group in terms of a Europa League finish, but their form makes the away side extremely difficult to trust.
Purple and White have been improving domestically, climbing to third in the table on the back of a three-match winning run, including a 2-1 over KSC Lokeren on Sunday away from home. Goals from Gerkens and Onyekuru came either side of a Skulason penalty, that positive stretching Anderlecht's recent league form to four wins and a draw. A level finish will be no good in Glasgow, the Belgians must win, and must win well, trailing the locals by four in the goal-difference tally.
A lack of firepower worries Vanhaezebrouck, who spoke to the press this week about the challenge facing his side at Parkhead. The 53-year-old is well aware of his crew's toothless displays in the final third, and knows injuries to key players doesn't help his chances any. Alexandru Chipciu and Nicolae Stanciu are both reportedly missing, and the stats don't do much to encourage either, Anderlecht winning by more than three goals only once in nine months.
Will Rodgers set-up to defend?
Celtic go in with confidence to spare, scoring five goals at the weekend, Brendan Rodgers knowing that if he packs the defence, and avoids a heavy defeat, they'll drop into the Europa League, further boosting the club's bank balance. Does the former Liverpool leader have it in him to set-up defensively? Critics say no, and he was dragged over hot coals for having a go in Paris recently. They are favourites for the win, and deserve to be, [1.91] available on the Exchange, against a draw at [4.0]. A point each makes far more appeal.
Anderlecht have to attack, there's no two ways about it. They need goals, must rattle Celtic early and gain a bit of momentum behind their work. The longer the match ticks away with the scores low, the better for all in green and white. Home fans will pack the stands, as always, create a winning atmosphere, but be more than happy to see their side play it sensibly. Anderlecht to qualify is a big ask, and they have been written off for the match win too, [4.3] there to be shot at.
Low-scoring game perfect for Celtic
Looking at the total goals market, and we have a team who would be better suited to defending their lead, against an opponent who have struggled to put the ball in the net. Injuries to the Anderlecht attack makes this mission impossible, and the match producing under 2.5 goals is 13/10 (Sportsbook), under 3.5 goals 8/15. The latter looks one for your accumulators.
That's the smart play, but let's not forget Anderlecht were involved in a tight, three-goal game at the weekend, while Celtic, littered with reserve players, smashed in five against a very capable Motherwell. That makes over 2.5 goals all the more appealing at 4/6. Over 3.5 is 13/8, market top price on the Sportsbook.