Virgil looks a fab bet
Ben Coley previews Tuesday night's Champions League ties with Celtic's Virgil van Dijk worth backing to find the net.
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Last Wednesday, there was not a single odds-on favourite in five Champions League ties. Fast forward six days, and there are five of them.
Zenit are shortest and rightly so. The Russian side were thoroughly dominant in Belgium and should increase what's a 1-0 lead over Standard Liege, albeit at 3/10 they're hardly worth backing to do so.
Porto are the other side who lead, and having limited Lille to few chances they too will surely progress. However, those backing them to win Tuesday's second leg do have to remember that a draw is enough for the Portuguese outfit who look well-equipped to set their own tempo on home soil and at 4/6 I can move on quickly enough.
Each of the other three games ended 1-1 so there's plenty to play for as BATE host Slovan Bratislava, APOEL host AaB Aalborg and Celtic welcome Maribor to Parkhead.
We'll start with the Scottish champions, who were involved in an entertaining clash with their Slovenian opponents and one which could have gone either way.
Ronny Deila sacrificed league points for this game at the weekend, when his side lost what will probably prove an inconsequential match with Inverness, and knows this is very much must-win stuff as they try to make the most of their lifeline.
Focus is firmly on this game and it's one they should win, providing they can avoid the sort of performance which looked to have confined them to the Europa League as they lost to Legia Warsaw in hopeless fashion.
Quotes of 3/5 and shorter make very limited appeal with that in mind and instead I'm inclined to try and pick out a potential scorer, with Virgil van Dijk the man who appeals most at 13/2.
The Dutch defender has been strongly linked with a move to Southampton in recent weeks, and with compatriot Ronald Koeman in charge there, his days in Scotland may be numbered.
For now, though, he remains a major asset to Celtic and we saw again how dangerous he can be going forward when he had a header cleared off the line in Maribor, before going close from range as Celtic pressed for a winner.
Van Dijk bagged a brace against Reykavik in the second round of qualifiers, both of which came courtesy of instinctive finishes from corners, and if the Scottish side are on the front foot as I expect he's likely to be a bigger threat than odds of 13/2 imply.
It's also worth considering Celtic to get off to a fast start as they so often have and 11/8 in the half-time/full-time market looks fair, but I'll stick with just the one bet here.
Of the remaining games, BATE are tempting as they were reportedly the better side in Bratislava and should be able to build on that, but I'd rather take a speculative punt on AaB Aalborg at 2/1 to qualify.
The Danish side probably should've beaten APOEL last week only to pay the price for their profligacy in front of goal. However, they made it this far thanks to a superb 2-0 win at Dynamo Zagreb, who had won their previous six games and have also won each of their subsequent three, so have nothing to fear here as they travel to Cyprus.
Anders K Jacobsen - who is nicknamed 'AK47' - and former Aston Villa striker Nicklas Helenius provide a dangerous strike-force and they could catch the Cypriot side out. I certainly think they've enough about them to score and if that's the case they should have strong claims of reaching the next stage.
"If the match was 50-50 before today, then it is probably 55-45 in their favour now," said Aab coach Kent Nielsen after the first leg and I'd just about agree with that sentiment, which makes 2/1 a price worth taking to small stakes against opponents whose domestic campaign is yet to begin.