Celtic face stern test in Salzburg as Red Bull roster still intact
Celtic will not relish a first-ever meeting with Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg, as the hosts are odds-on 4/6 favourites with Coral to start the Europa League group stage off with victory.
Ronny Deila’s side have diminished status on the continent nowadays, which explains outsider prices of 6/1 to win away, 5/1 to top Group D and 100/1 to the lift the trophy.
Salzburg are also odds-on at 1/2 to finish first in the pool, because they have somehow kept hold of the squad that went on a run to the last 16 of this competition last term. Southampton spent £10m on Senegal wideman Saido Mane, but that is the only high-profile summer departure. It would be naïve to think, however, that such form went unnoticed.
Red Bull’s Austrian franchise knocked off Dutch champions Ajax as their most notable result last campaign, but that meant Bayer Leverkusen came calling for coach Roger Schmidt. He’s been replaced by the tastefully named Adolf Hutter.
Home side striker Jonathan Soriano has 11 in just seven appearances for Salzburg this season, so this prolific Spaniard, who was the Europa League’s leading marksman in 2013/14, is odds-on to score anytime at 4/5. A better bet might be for him to bag a brace or better at 7/2.
Kevin Kampl, the creative midfielder and rising star of Slovenia, is another to cause Celtic concern. He is 7/2 in the anytime market. Brazilian frontman Alan, meanwhile, is a 9/2 chance to net the opener.
The Bhoys may have versatile player Charlie Mulgrew, defenders Adam Matthews, Mikael Lustig and Virgil van Dijk, and winger James Forrest all missing, so the visitors could be short at the back. Deila will find it difficult in Austria, which is no better evidenced by the relatively long odds for his forwards to score anytime.
Kris Commons (11/4) is a seasoned Celtic campaigner now alongside Anthony Stokes (10/3), while Leigh Griffiths and new signing Stefan Scepovic (also 10/3 each) are likely to get little change out of a well-marshalled Red Bull backline.
A win to nil for hosts Salzburg at 29/20 is tempting for punters that place no faith in the Bhoys breaking down the door. If, alternatively, you believe Celtic’s strikeforce can nick a goal, then a Red Bull victory and both sides being on target is also worth considering at 2/1.