Third qualifying round rematches of the UEFA Champions League will be played during the week and we’re all looking forward to find out the names of the squads that will get one step closer to the group stage of this competition.
Winners will face one further challenge in the final play-off round that will give us the names of 32 teams that shall play in the group stage of the Champions League.
Ludogorets (Bul) vs. H. Beer Sheva (Isr)
Three-Way: 1: Ludogorets -110; X: +278 Draw; H. Beer Sheva +371
Spread -0.5: Ludogorets -118; H. Beer Sheva +114
Total +2.5: Over +110; Under -115
Bulgaria domestic league winners let their fans down last Wednesday by losing 2:0 away, with a less than adequate performance against a lesser side. Star player Jonathan Cafu, who netted 14 times last season, will be needed to drag the team back into contention for the play-offs, but will have support from fellow team mates to help with the great escape.
Ludogorets would be extremely disappointed to leave the competition at this stage, having achieved success last year in the Champions League finishing 3rd in the group stage.
During the offseason Ludogorets has signed three players, while seven players left, most notably centre-back José Luis Palomino leaving for 4 million Euros to Atlanta. Manager Georgi Dermendzhiev will have a full roster ready except for Vladislav Stoyanov who has suffered from a Patella rupture.
Hapoel Beer Sheva
Hapoel Beer Sheva will be feeling electric after a plucky 2:0 win in front of their home crowd. Fans will be singing goal-scorers Michael Ohana & Anthony Nwakaeme´s names long into the night, while aware that there is still another tricky game to play and the team must remain composed.
Furthermore, the Israeli champions will realize that they are the lesser side, but a 2:0 lead could go a long way to reaching the next round if they are able to reduce Ludogorets attacks to a minimum.
Beer Sheva has never qualified for the Champions League group stage, despite this they can take courage from last year’s Europa League campaign, when they navigated their way through a group that included the likes of Inter Milan to reach the last 32, but unfortunately where knocked out by Besiktas.
The Israeli side has made five additions to their squad this summer, including the right-winger Isaac Cuenca on a free transfer from Granada CF, while eight players left. Manager Barak Bakhar will have a full squad at his disposal.
Ludogorets (Bul) vs. H. Beer Sheva (Isr) – Match Prediction:
Ludogorets should have the quality to win the game, but whether they are able to overturn the 2 goal deficit is to be seen, as 1 goal from Beer Sheva could spell trouble. I would go for a Ludogorets win.
MY PICK: Ludogorets to Win (-110)
Rijeka (Cro) vs. Salzburg (Aut)
Three-Way: 1: Rijeka +142; X: +243 Draw; 2: Salzburg +234
Spread -0. 5: Rijeka +137; Salzburg -147
Total +2.5: Over +110; Under -122
Rijeka will be pleased to take the advantage to their home ground with a 1:1 draw in the 1st leg. The Croatian champions are in good form as they are unbeaten in eight games since coming back from the summer break, including the impressive 2:0 and 4:1 wins in the Croatian First Football League.
European history, however, does not kindly look upon Rijeka as they have never qualified for the Champions League group stage, although there’s a first for everything with their 1st league title won last year and a place in the play-offs for the first time beckoning.
A total of six new players have arrived during the offseason, while nine left, including attacking-midfielder Franko Andrijasevic who was signed by KAA Gent for a 4.25 million Euros. Manager Matjaz Kek will have a full squad selection.
The Austrian champions will still feel they have a decent shot in the tie, despite conceding the away goal in Austria, with players who have potential to bite upfront such as South Korea international Hee-Chan Hwang, who scored their only goal in the 1st leg.
Salzburg also has little more experience than their opponents in Europe, having only reached as far as the group stages of the Champions League just once.
During the offseason RB Salzburg has signed seven players, while twelve have left, including midfielder Konrad Laimerto and Wanderson to Krasnodar for 7 and 8 million Euros respectively. Manager Marco Rose will be missing Samuel Tetteh (Meniscus), Xaver Schlager (Ankle) and David Atanga (Foot) all through injury, while key player Valon Berisha will be missing through suspension.
Rijeka (Cro) vs. Salzburg (Aut)– Match Prediction:
Rijeka has been in good form recently, while Salzburg has some top strikers that may catch Rijeka on the break. Both teams will be going for the win in this game, so I would go for a high-scoring game, with Salzburg just edging it, maybe on away goals.
MY PICK: Over 2.5 goals (+110)
Rosenborg (Nor) vs. Celtic (Sco)
Three-Way: 1: Rosenborg +191; X: +236 Draw; 2: Celtic +162
Spread 0: Rosenborg +108; Celtic -115
Total +2.5: Over -101; Under -110
A deadlock at Celtic Park means that neither Celtic nor Rosenborg take advantage from the 1st leg, with the Norwegian team probably the happier of the two sides for taking the deciding leg to their home ground.
The 2016 Norwegian champions will also be the fitter of the two sides, already having played over half of their games in the domestic league. Furthermore, they will feel in good form as they are unbeaten in eight matches, but wary of the fact that the last time Rosenborg qualified for the Champions League was back in the 2007-08 season.
The Norwegian side´s summer has seen few in and out-goings with one new arrival, namely Jonathan Levi, and two departures. Manager Kare Ingebrigtsen will have a full selection, although central-midfielder Magnus Stamneströ is a doubt for Wednesday´s game as he is suffering from knee problems.
Celtic may have hoped for at least a minimal win at their home ground in Glasgow, but fell slightly short of expectations as they failed to get on the score sheet, despite the lion-share of possession. The 48 time Scottish champions seem to be suffering from the loss of their 2 main centre-forwards, Leigh Griffiths and the super-talented Moussa Dembélé through injury; a Celtic victory may depend on Griffiths, who may recover from injury in time for Tuesday, although it is doubtful.
Celtic has huge stature in Europe, having won the European Cup in the 1966-67 season and been finalists in the 2002-03 season. The Scottish side also made the group stages of the Champions League last season.
Celtic has had three new signings this summer, including the young French midfielder Olivier Ntcham from Manchester City, with sixteen players having left, notably Kolo Touré who is now a free agent.
Manager Brendan Rodgers will be missing Dedryck Boyata (knee) and Moussa Dembélé (hamstring) who are both injured. Cristian Gamboa (minor injury) and Leigh Griffiths (cals sclerosis) are also both doubtful.
Rosenborg (Nor) vs. Celtic (Sco) – Match Prediction:
Usually Celtic should breeze through this tie, but with a 0:0 draw in the 1st leg and the Scottish side missing some key players, the game seems more even on paper. My pick is another draw between the two sides, but I would wait to see if Leigh Griffiths is fit before placing any bets. Also, take the under in this one as well!!!
MY PICK: Draw (+236)
Additional Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-110)
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