AC Milan vs Celtic Champions League

Celtic boss Neil Lennon didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when the draw was made for the Champions League last month and not even the most ardent and optimistic fan will be expecting the Hoops to finish on top of a group comprising Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax, all multiple European champions.

Coral rate Celtic at 40/1 to cause a seismic shock and win Group H and go 8/1 they qualify for the knock-out stages, something they famously achieved last year after beating Barcelona in Glasgow on a never-to-be-forgotten night in November.

No team and no player – not even Lionel Messi, who said it was the most incredible and intimidating Champions League venue he had played at – will be relishing their visit to Scotland and Celtic supporters can look forward to three more fantastic occasions on home soil in the coming weeks.

But it’s a different story away from home. Celtic have managed to avoid defeat only twice on their last 24 excursions abroad and their trip to AC Milan tonight is another tough assignment for them ahead of their eagerly-awaited home fixture against Barca on October 1st.

Lennon watched Milan scrape a 2-2 draw at Torino at the weekend and will be further encouraged by the Italian team’s injury list, which their manager, Massimiliano Allegri, said read like a “wartime news bulletin.”

Among many notable absentees will be captain Riccardo Montolivo and Brazilian star Kaka, not the force he was when he scored against Celtic back in 2007, but still a player Lennon will be happy not to have to contend with.

But the real danger man, Mario Balotelli, plays. Coral make the former Manchester City star 3/1 to score first (8/11 at any time) and keeping the mercurial striker quiet for 90 minutes will be a top priority for the Celtic rearguard.

Lennon has a few injury issues of his own, but his team go into tonight’s clash on the back of a solid 3-1 win at Hearts last weekend when Anthony Stokes, Kris Commons and Teemu Pukki (all 10/1 to net first, 7/2 at any time) were on the scoresheet.

AC Milan (1/2) should win this on paper, but it might well be a close run thing with just a goal in it – you can get 24/5 a 1-0 home victory.

Meanwhile, Barcelona entertain Ajax at the Nou Camp and there could well be a few goals in this, at least for the home side. Coral go 8/1 a 4-0 win for Barca, while Messi is just 6/1 to do what Cristiano Ronaldo did for Real Madrid last night and score a hat-trick.

Written by Jon Freeman