Europa League Tips: Hosts hoping to secure the consolation of Europa League groups

Steven Gerrard Rangers
Steven Gerrard's side must respond following their early exit from the Champions League
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Rangers enjoy home advantage on Thursday for this Europa League playoff and Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse expects them to impress, while Celtic have a tricky tie on Wednesday...

"The flagbearers of Armenian football have played six UEFA matches already this season which should see them arrive in Glasgow fit and ready for action. Alashkert are yet to record a win in that period."

Busy night for Scottish sides

The Europa League action continues midweek with the Scottish Premiership well represented. Celtic open the show with a home match against Dutch side AZ Alkmaar on Wednesday, and that game will tell us more about Ange Postecoglou's side following a mixed start.

The following day, Rangers welcome Armenian champions Alashkert to Ibrox. At the same time, Aberdeen go to FK Qarabag, and St Johnstone aim to keep their Europa Conference League hopes alive when facing LASK on the road.

Celtic v AZ Alkmaar
Wednesday, 19:45
Live on Premier Sports

With both halves of the Old Firm playing at home in the Europa League this week, Celtic's fixture against Dutch club AZ Alkmaar has been re-scheduled for Wednesday evening, 24 hours before the Gers get to work against Alashkert. Postecoglou's side had high hopes of making it to the Champions League group stages, despite finishing second in the Scottish Premiership. The dream start for their new manager was quickly killed off by FC Midtjylland in the qualifying second round.

An opening day defeat in Edinburgh against Hearts followed as Ange's reign got off to the worst possible start. The Hoops finally got off the mark with a 7-2 aggregate win in the previous round of this competition over FC Jablonec and picked up their first Premiership win when battering a hopeless Dundee 6-0 at this venue.

This will be Celtic's second game in four days after hosting Hearts in the League Cup on Sunday, and they are priced at 1.9720/21 for the win and that will be a popular choice given their recent wins.

Alkmaar can afford to attack

UEFA scrapping the away goal rule this season has already proven to be a masterstroke. It means teams on the road can afford to open up and be a bit more adventurous, rather than battling to keep the scores low and nick an away goal. That will suit Eredivisie third-place finishers AZ Alkmaar who will come to Glasgow and pressure a home defence that is yet to gel as a unit and look vulnerable at set-pieces.

The Dutch league started at the weekend, and Pascal Jansen's team opened with a surprise defeat away to RKC Waalwijk. That match ended 1-0 with Michiel Kramer scoring the winner just before halftime. That would have knocked confidence in the Cheeseheads camp, and there is a fear a trip to a side as strong as Celtic comes just a little too early in their season.

The away win trades at 4.1 on the exchange with the draw yours at 3.9. The Dutch side certainly has the quality to pose their hosts problems, but Saturday's defeat threw up more questions than answers. They'll be eager to ensure the tie remains competitive for next week's return leg.

Rangers v Alashkert
Thursday, 20:00
Live on Premier Sport

Rangers crashed out of the Champions League at the earliest opportunity following a 10-year wait. Gerrard's Gers were beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Malmo, a defeat that left the support distraught. Fans packed into Ibrox for the second leg and saw star striker Alfredo Morelos level the tie at 2-2 before the opponents had a man sent off on 45 minutes. Holding their fate in their own hands, the home players dropped their work rate and were deservedly beaten 2-1.

No player other than Morelos received pass marks that night, prompting Gerrard to make changes for Friday's visit of Championship side Dunfermline in the League Cup. The former Liverpool and England star got the reaction he wanted with Rangers blasting into the next round courtesy of an emphatic 5-0. The likes of Calvin Bassey, Kemar Roofe and Nathan Patterson were the standouts.

The current betting on the Betfair Exchange has Rangers priced as 1.152/13 favourites for the first leg win. Those searching for a bigger price can back over 3.5 goals in the game at 2.3611/8.

Visitors struggled against nine men

Alashkert bowed out of UEFA's top competition early, eliminated by FC Sheriff 4-1 on aggregate last month. They dropped into the Europa League, where they were last seen in action beating Kairat Almaty over two legs, but that tie went the distance. The first leg ended goalless before the Armenians snuck through with a narrow 3-2 victory in extra time. The beaten team finished with nine men that evening but still make it to 90 minutes locked at 2-2. Aleksandar Glisic struck the decisive goal on 103 minutes.

The flagbearers of Armenian football have played six UEFA matches already this season which should see them arrive in Glasgow fit and ready for action. Alashkert are yet to record a win in that period. Their form is made up of four draws and a couple of defeats. They have conceded nine goals in that time, and their leaky defence is expected to come under intense pressure on Thursday. The likes of Morelos, Roofe, Cedric Itten and Ryan Kent will be desperate to get at them early. The away win has been written off as a 2221/1 shot with the draw 8.415/2.

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