Celtic can continue lucky run into Champions League proper
It is fair to say that Celtic are still adjusting to life under new boss Ronny Deila. Whilst they have enjoyed easy early Scottish Premiership wins, they were thrashed in the Champions League third qualifying round by Legia Warsaw, only to be given a lucky reprieve.
They now come into this play-off with Maribor as odds-on favourites to qualify to the group stages at 1/4, after drawing 1-1 in the away leg, but on the back of a 1-0 defeat in the league to Inverness.
Callum McGregor got the early goal in Slovenia, and the young Scottish midfielder, who has now incredibly opened the scoring three times in this competition this term, is 5/1 to net first again. He was also on target in the Hoops’ 3-0 win over St Johnstone in the Premiership this campaign, and his form has earned him a first senior Scotland call-up.
The likes of Republic of Ireland international Anthony Stokes and Norwegian loanee Jo Inge Berget (from Cardiff City) have also banged goals in recently this season. They are evens and 6/5 respectively to score anytime.
Maribor (11/4 to qualify), though, will be motivated to do all they can to reach the Champions League group stages for only the second time in their history. The Slovenian side failed at this stage the last two seasons, but can take confidence from Celtic’s shaky start to the season.
Damjan Bohar got the equalising goal for Maribor in the first leg, and he is an 11/2 shout to net again. Other threats for the Eastern Europeans include Macedonia forward Agim Ibraimi, who was reportedly a target for Celtic, and their club top-scorer in history Marcos Tavares, of Brazil. They are 11/4 and 10/3 respectively to get a goal anytime.
The Glasgow giants’ keeper Craig Gordon, who has stepped into Fraser Forster’s giant boots and is attempting a comeback from long spells out though injury, had a fantastic game, making crucial saves to help his side hold a draw. The former Sunderland and Hearts stopper, now 31, is 11/10 to help Celtic to a clean sheet, which would see them qualify, while his side are 31/20 to win to nil.
Deila’s men are a more enticing 8/15 for a victory in 90 minutes (Maribor are 5/1), while a draw is priced at 3/1.