Celtic face a tricky trip to Armenian rulers Alashkert in the Champions League on Tuesday and are expected to lay down a marker. Betfair's Scottish football writer Frankie Monkhouse digs up the betting value on a massive week for British football.....
"The Yellows know they must take advantage of playing in front of their own fans and score at least once to keep things competitive heading to Scotland eight days later"
Not many would've predicted England being in Russia as domestic teams returned to action but that's the case as Gareth Southgate's Three Lions prepare for what promises to be a gripping semi-final against Croatia on Wednesday.
As well as the midweek World Cup two, football fans have Champions League and Europa League qualifiers to sort through with the likes of Celtic and Rangers taking part. Scottish champions Celtic travel to Hanrapetakan Stadium on Tuesday for the first-leg of a double-header vs Armenian Premier League rulers Alashkert.
Qualification to the Champions League group stage is the minimum expected of Brendan Rodgers' men but in The Yellows they'll face a side desperate to pull off a famous upset and go on a money-spinning run of their own. Alashkert reached the second qualifying round last season after hammering Santa Coloma 3-0 on aggregate, a result achieved thanks to an impressive 3-0 home win. Varuzhan Sukiasyan's side also have fond memories of Scottish opposition having knocked St Johnstone out of the Europa League three years ago.
Edouard's transfer a show of intent
There's little double the bulk of quality comes out of the away dressing room in this one but it's still very early in the season for The Hoops and they must guard against complacency when travelling to the home of an opponent intent on inflicting pain. Followers of the Glasgow side know all too well the dangers of taking opponents lightly in this competition, especially at this time of year when lacking both fitness and match sharpness.
Celtic haven't been as active in the transfer window as fans would've hoped and lost talented midfielder Stuart Armstrong who sealed a £7m move to English Premier League side Southampton in June. The Parkhead board may be waiting on another injection of cash from the UEFA coffers before finalising Brendan Rodgers' budget but they did back their manager when breaking the bank to make Odsonne Edouard's loan move from PSG a permanent transfer, forking out a club record fee for the 20-year-old French striker. A statement of intent?
Bhoys eager to build on their progress under Rodgers
Celtic could probably get away with taking a score draw back to Glasgow but everyone in green and white will be eager to hit the ground running in this competition and build on the progress already made in Europe under Rodgers. The club's wage bill continues to grow season-on-season and as a result qualification for the group stage becomes vital. Last season's treble winners need the big European nights in Glasgow and that's exactly where fans believe they belong.
Punters expect them to get through this summer football tie without too much hassle and those looking to back Celtic for the away win on Tuesday will find [1.28] available on the Betfair Exchange. That should prove popular with accumulator backers but those after a bit more may be tempted by the 11/10 about Celtic -1 on the handicap (Betfair Sportsbook).
Alashkert must score at home to have any chance
In the past two seasons Alashkert have reached the second round of the competition, scoring four goals at home in the process. That was on top of the one they got when St Johnstone came calling in the Europa League the season before. Both sides will know the value of keeping the scores low, but The Yellows must take advantage of playing in front of their own fans and score at least once to keep things competitive heading to Scotland eight days later.
With that in mind a punt on the game producing over 2.5 goals at even money on the Sportsbook looks worth a shot and makes more sense than the 8/11 you'll find about under 2.5 goals. Celtic 3-1 can be played for interest stakes at 11/1 to enhance your midweek viewing.