Scottish Premiership sides Celtic and Rangers face a playoff to reach the Europa League group stage. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse expects another successful night...
"Gerrard’s side seem to play their best football in Europe and Betfair traders offer the home win at 21/20."
Scottish football lost half of its Europa League representative in the previous round but still have both halves of the Old Firm flying the saltire in UEFA's second string competition. Rangers host Galatasaray at Ibrox on Thursday evening after Celtic travel to FK Sarajevo for the second time in the last two seasons.
This week's single leg playoff matches are the final hurdles between the Glaswegians and a place in the group stages of the tournament meaning tensions will be running high in both matches. Will the Scottish Premiership have two sides in the groups once again? Betfair traders offer members the chance to bet on the action with several eye-catching specials available.
Like their opponents, FK Sarajevo began this European adventure in the Champions League but were eliminated at the qualifying stage. The locals saw off Connah's Quay in the first round back in August but were dumped out by Dinamo Brest at the next stage, suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat away from home. Sarajevo fell behind inside three minutes in that match but despite fighting back to equalise they were undone by a second-half winner from Abdoulaye Diallo.
The Giants had a little more luck in the previous round of the Europa League, booking their place in the playoffs with a hard-fought win over Buducnost at home, edging through thanks to a 2-1 score. That win set up a shot at quickfire revenge against Celtic who knocked Sarajevo out of the Champions League last season.
Bhoys on a winning run
Neil Lennon takes his Celtic side back to Sarajevo after leading them to a comfortable 3-1 win here last July in the Champions League. Mirko Oremus fired the hosts ahead that night with a goal on 29 minutes, but the Hoops responded in fine style, claiming a strong first leg victory thanks to strikes from Michael Johnston, Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair.
Celtic make this trip on the back of a recent unbeaten run in all competitions, including a 3-0 home victory vs Hibs on Sunday in the Scottish Premiership. The champions made a mockery of what had been billed as a potentially dangerous game, taking the lead inside seven minutes, and dominating the match from there. A fine warm-up for what awaits on Thursday.
Away win strong favourite
The Betfair Sportsbook has written off the chances of FK Sarajevo getting revenge over Celtic and securing a place in the Europa League groups. The locals are 17/2 to win this game in normal time with Celtic priced at 1/4. Backers of the favourite may be forced into the specials as they seek out their fair share of the value.
Taking our lead from the two matches involving these sides last summer we see Celtic won each, but Sarajevo were able to find the net, losing 5-2 on aggregate. Both teams to score in a Celtic win looks worth a play at 11/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook.
Steven Gerrard has overseen some memorable Europa League wins as manager of Glasgow Rangers and he'll be asked to do the same again when the light blues host Galatasaray. The locals aim to make the group stages of the competition for the third season in-a-row but will be without their loyal fans as the stands continue to lie empty due to the coronavirus shutout. Players must ignore the lack of atmosphere and concentrate on firing their club to the money-spinning next phase.
Rangers warmed up for this match with an impressive 5-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday. Captain James Tavernier netted a double with both goals scored from the penalty spot. Summer signing Cedric Itten registered his first goal for the club, closely followed by a second, with the spare coming from Jordan Jones who looks determined to force his way into the manager's plans. It'll be interesting to see if Gerrard gives Jones the nod on Thursday.
Turks unbeaten against Gers
Turkish Super Lig side Galatasaray take heart from past meetings with Rangers and are unbeaten in their two previous games against the Scots. The Lions beat Gers 3-2 in a Champions League thriller back in 2000 before leaving Ibrox with a goalless draw in the repeat. The visitors would dearly love another clean sheet but know this one will be played to a conclusion with extra-time and penalties available if necessary.
Galatasaray have started the season in fine form and are unbeaten in their first three league games, winning two and drawing the other. The spare level finish came last time out when ending goalless at home to Fenerbahce, unable to score the winning goal despite dominating the possession stats and forcing five shots on target. They have now kept out the opposition in each of their last three games and have conceded just two in their last five, scoring 10 in the same period.
Rangers favourites to go through
There are no doubts Rangers will miss their fans who create a special atmosphere in Govan on European nights. Gerrard's side seem to play their best football in Europe and Betfair traders offer the home win at 21/20. Galatasaray have been marked up at 9/4 to cause an upset and book their slot in the group stages.
This match is a meeting of two teams in fine form with a reliable defence. This should be a tense meeting with scoring chances kept to a minimum, but Gerrard has options in attack and that should make the difference. The home win to nil looks worth a bet at 13/5 (Betfair Sportsbook).