Celtic v Valencia: Spaniards to hold their nerve on a fiery night in Glasgow
Celtic look to land a blow on Valencia in this first-leg but punters stand with the away win and Betfair's football writer Frankie Monkhouse follows the crowd...
"This will be the fifth meeting of these sides in history, Valencia leading the head-to-head charts 2-1, with one draw"
Celtic v Valencia
Live on BT Sport
Big boys join the party
The Europa League returns to our screens on Thursday evening as the big boys join the party at the Round of 32 stage, third-place finishers in each of the Champions League groups handed the consolation prize of involvement in European football's second-string competition.
One of the eight clubs taking a step down in grade is Valencia who finished third in Group H behind Juventus and Manchester United. The La Liga giants will be eager to show their class over two legs when drawn against Scottish Premiership champions Celtic, with the opener taking place in Glasgow on another special night at Parkhead. The locals will have the disco lights on, but traders have the away win marked as favourite.
Hoops hitting form
Celtic left it late to snatch qualification from Europa League Group B but ended as deserved runners up behind Red Bull Salzburg. The pool champions posted a perfect six-game winning card, the 18 points on the board seeing them breeze through to the knockout stages of the competition and they'll surely take some stopping. Brendan Rodgers' side finished with three wins against three defeats, with two of those victories coming in their last three starts. Nine points had them two better then RB Leipzig's 2-1-3.
The Hoops have been just as impressive domestically of late, winning their seven starts this year. They've scored no less than 21 goals, keeping a clean-sheet in every game and that defence will be vital if they are to upset the odds on Thursday and make home advantage count. The locals warmed up for this test with a stunning 5-0 Scottish Cup win over St Johnstone on Sunday, setting records in the process. A tougher test awaits, but there's no doubt the Scots have the talent in attack to take any chances that fall their way.
Valencia held their own
Getting out of Champions League Group H was always going to be a big ask when dropped into a pool with Juventus, Man Utd and Young Boys. The latter were in over their heads, ending bottom of the pile on four points with -8 in the goal difference tally. Valencia held their own during their six-game involvement, winning two, drawing two and losing two. The Spaniards finished two points behind The Red Devils, four ahead of Young Boys and they'll rate their chances of going deep into this tournament against lesser opposition.
In La Liga, Los Che can be found eighth, six points behind Sevilla and a place in the top-four. Marcelino's men ended fourth last season and have time on their side if they are to replicate that. They board a plane to Glasgow with the confidence that comes from an unbeaten run, winning two and drawing three of their last five. The visitors played out a goalless finish with Real Sociedad on Sunday and we expect they'd take another draw if offered it here, finishing the tie off at the Mestalla next week.
Punters sweet on Oranges
Valencia arrive on a decent run of form but it's worth mentioning they haven't won a match in any competition since 29 January, beating Getafe 3-1 at home in the Copa Del Rey. Will that put punters off a bet on the away day? It's unlikely and those choosing to support The Oranges will find them trading as firm favourites on the exchange, [2.22] there to be shot at.
That's deemed more likely than the draw, which carries a [3.35] price tag, while Celtic have been written off, despite enjoying the backing of another passionate sell out crowd. Those preferring to take a chance on the upset will be delighted to find a chunky [3.45] on the exchange for The Bhoys to secure a first-leg lead.
Visitors will keep it tight
This will be the fifth meeting of these sides in history, Valencia leading the head-to-head charts 2-1, with one draw. The sides last met over two games in the UEFA Cup in 2001, the team playing at home securing a 1-0 win on each occasion - Vicente getting the winner for Valencia, Larsson doing the damage for Celtic in Glasgow.
It's also worth knowing Valencia lost only once away from home in the Champions League this season, with the spare coming in the form of a 1-0 at Juventus. No shame in that result. Fans will take heart from a 0-0 at Old Trafford and 1-1 away to Young Boys. The visitors will aim to keep it tight again and those results at the higher level push us towards a bet on this game producing under 2.5 goals at 8/11 on the Betfair Sportsbook. That makes more sense than going for a goal-fest and risking our stake on over 2.5 at evens.
Valencia win @ [2.22] (Betfair Exchange)