Zenit can sink Pacos
Ian Ogg previews Wednesday evening's play-off second legs in the UEFA Champions League.
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A reported £7.4million is on the line for Glasgow Celtic on Wednesday evening as they attempt to retrieve the 2-0 deficit that Kazakhstan's champions, Shakhter Karagandy, bring into the second leg.
Celtic are odds against - in places - to qualify and consign their first-leg defeat to the footnotes of history and that should surely be the direction to head in for anyone wanting to side with the Scots given that they are a prohibitive 1/4 to win the game.
There have been some famous European nights at Parkhead and Celtic's misfiring strikers will be keen to make amends for their first leg blank having spurned several clear cut opportunities.
Shakhter spent much of the first game defending in numbers and playing on the break and it's likely to be more of the same in the return game and Celtic will need to be more disciplined, both in defence and attack, than they were last week if they're to progress.
There is a temptation to back the Scots to qualify and it's no surprise that bookmakers have seen support for the 3-0 scoreline but, all in all, I think this is a game that we can afford to sit out.
Czech champions FC Viktoria Plzen take a 3-1 advantage into their return leg against NK Maribor courtesy of an 89th minute strike and the way that they defended in that game will stand them in good stead.
They had a strong campaign in the last season's Europa League, topping a group that included holders Atletico Madrid and then defeating Napoli to qualify for the last 16.
With four wins and two draws from their last six away fixtures in Europe the odds against takes the eye but Maribor have yet to concede a home goal at in this season's competition.
Lyon have plenty of Champions League experience and may yet be able to make a decent fist of their tie against Real Sociedad while AC Milan are a short price to prove too strong for PSV Eindhoven.
A 1-1 draw in the Netherlands was the least that the young Dutch team deserved for their efforts but it could be a different story at the San Siro.
The Rossoneri were entitled to be a little off the pace as that match was their first competitive game of the season but they improved after the break and were unlucky not to snatch a late winner.
They have lost their first Serie A game (away at Verona) and struggled at home in last season's Champions League but that was a formative season for a young side.
The experience should stand them in good stead while there is a core of older heads in the side with the likes of Mexes, Abbiati, Robinho and De Jong alongside exciting talents such as Balotelli and El Shaarawy.
Milan have competed in the group stage in 10 of the previous 11 seasons whereas PSV's last appearance was in 2008/09 and history is against the Dutch club who have never won at the San Siro.
They could only finish third in their Europa League group but their two victories came against Napoli (by an aggregate of 6-1) who finished one place and six points in front of Wednesday's opponents in last season's Serie A.
That alone makes me sufficiently wary of piling into Milan at 4/6 and a better option is to side with Zenit St Petersburg.
They are a short price to complete the job (4-1 up) against Pacos Fereira but there are a couple of markets where it looks worth siding with the Russians.
The Portugeuse team has never scored an away goal in Europe and are up against a side who have lost just once at home in Europe since 2008. That defeat came at the hands of AC Milan in the group stages of this competition last season although they did net twice in the 3-2 defeat as they did against Malaga and Liverpool (in the Europa League).
Simply, they should have too much class and firepower for the opposition and, although there's a danger that they could rest on their laurels with the tie all but over, the 21/20 with Betway to win to nil is too tempting to ignore while the 6/4 offered by Winner about Zenit -2 on the Asian Handicap is also worth tucking into as this could just be a landslide.
- The matches are being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.