It’s been a week since the first leg of the UEFA Champions League playoffs, and with the domestic league matches being played over the weekend, the teams will certainly need extra focus going into the decisive return fixtures of the UCL playoffs!
Astana (Kaz) vs. Celtic (Sco)
Three-Way: 1: Astana +185; X: +258 Draw; Celtic +172
Spread 0: Astana +104; Celtic -104
Total +2.5: Over -108; Under +108
Astana might be the best team in Kazakhstan, but it seems that’s not enough for the UEFA Champions League level of competition. Their dreams abruptly came to an end last week, when Celtic thrashed them by 5:0. An easy win for the Scottish club was expected, but not many punters imagined the result was going to be so impressive.
Of course, the Hoops have always been dangerous on their turf, while Astana’s away performances have been far from good. But, what about Astana’s home stats? The champion of Kazakhstan has been great when playing at their stadium. Last season, for example, they managed to stay undefeated at their turf, winning 10 out of 11 home matches.
Still, it seems that we shouldn’t care too much about Astana’s league performances. After all, it’s not like they have an opponent in the league that’s as strong as Celtic. So, perhaps you would get a better insight into looking at Astana’s statistics in the Champions League.
It seems that the clubs from other parts of Europe don’t like playing in Kazakhstan. At least, that’s what Astana’s Champions League stats show. This team has played a total of 10 games against top euro clubs at their stadium (counting both the UCL qualifiers and games from the group phase) and is still without a defeat! In fact, Astana already managed to win a point against Celtic at home, back in 2016. But, this doesn’t have to mean anything, especially now when the Bhoys are back in town!
Astana’s Manager Stanimir Stoilov will not be able to count on the defensive trio Yuri Logvinenko, Igor Shitov and Dmitri Shomko, who are all going to sit out due to the suspension.
Celtic is without a loss since November 2016, when they lost to Barca. They did lose to Lyon this summer, but it was a friendly fixture. What’s important is that even if they lose to Astana on Tuesday, they will almost certainly get a place in the Champions League. It’s because there’s almost no chance that Astana could score 5 times against such a strong side!
Celtic comes to the capital of Kazakhstan pretty relaxed as they’re very close to securing a place in the Champions League. Because of that, this match seems like a great opportunity for Brandon Rodgers to give a chance to some of the backup players.
But, even if Celtic played only with reserves, they would still be able to defeat Astana, or at least play draw. It is sure that Astana players are gonna find problems scoring in this match, as Celtic defenders have been flawless recently. In the previous 9 matches, Celtic conceded only 1 goal! Astana really doesn’t look as a team that can ruin that.
Brendan Rogers will miss out on the defenders Dedryck Boyata, Cristian Gamboa and Erik Sviatchenko due to injuries, while midfielder Eboue Kouassi and striker Moussa Dembele remain sidelined as well.
Astana (Kaz) vs. Celtic (Sco) – Match Preview
The fact is that Celtic really doesn’t need a win in this match, but neither does Astana. I’m sure the players and the management of the Kazakhstan champion know that their chances of getting a spot in the Champions League group stages are minimal. That’s why I expect them not to invest too much energy in this match.
For this reason, I think Celtic will have an upper hand in this game, but if that seems too risky, feel free to bet on the number of goals scored. I think that both teams will play without any pressure and the goal limit is set at 2.5 which is a line that should be easily topped.
MY PICK: Over 2.5 goals (-108)
Maribor (Slo) vs. Hapoel Beer Sheva (Isr)
Three-Way: 1: Maribor +175; X: +238 Draw; Hapoel Beer Sheva +190
Spread 0: Maribor -105; Hapoel Beer Sheva +100
Total +2.5: Over +110; Under -120
Maribor might be down one goal, but the things are far from being desperate. In the first leg of the doubleheader, the Israeli side won 2:1 in Beer Sheva. But, because of the away goal rule, even a 1:0 win at home would book Maribor a ticket to the group stage of the Champions League. The question is whether Maribor players have what it takes to beat Hapoel BS?
Well, if you take a look at their squad, it seems that it won’t be an easy job. Maribor came into the new season without making any big signings. Furthermore, the legendary striker, Milivoje Novakovic decided to put an end to his career, despite the fact that he had a brilliant season in Maribor last year.
The fact is that Maribor doesn’t have a strong squad as their opponent, but they do have one big advantage over Hapoel – the 1. SNL league started more than a month ago! What this implies is that Maribor players are in a great shape at the moment. They’re without a defeat after 6 league games, which is something that can give them a lot of confidence ahead of the clash with Hapoel.
The hosts have not reported any injured players and should have everyone ready to play on Tuesday.
Hapoel Beer Sheva
This summer, Hapoel management showed they mean business. They brought several high-profile players, including the ex-Granada player, Isaac Cuenca. Tomas Pekhart has also joined the club, after spending two seasons playing for AEK Athens.
Another thing in favor of Hapoel is that no key players have left the club during this transfer window. What this means is that the team is even stronger than the previous season, in which they won the LigatHa’al trophy.
The biggest strength of Hapoel Beer Sheva in the last season was their defense. During the regular season, they allowed only 13 goals, which is much less than other major Israeli teams had conceded. Maribor will definitely have problems finding the net, especially knowing that Hapoel is going to play ultra-defensively on Tuesday.
Vitor Miguel is the only player listed on the injured list for Hapoel going into the 2nd leg of the UCL playoffs.
Maribor (Slo) vs. Hapoel Beer Sheva (Isr) – Match Preview
I believe this Tuesday is going to stay in a good memory of Hapoel Beer Sheva supporters as the day when their team got qualified for the Champions League for the first time in the clubs history! I’m not sure about the result, as many options would work fine for the Israeli side. Still, I’m pretty confident we won’t see too many goals in this game, which is my safer bet.
MY PICK: Under 2.5 goals (-120)
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