Celtic to Seal Qualification

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: November 20 2012, 8:09 GMT

Neil Lennon can guide his side to another victory

1pt Celtic (draw no bet) to beat Benfica at 5/1 (bet365).

2pts BATE Borisov to beat Lille at 11/10 (William Hill).

1pt Manchester United to beat Galatasaray at 13/5 (Sky Bet, Stan James).

A draw for Celtic in Benfica will all but secure qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League but the evidence offered so far this season is that they're capable of going a step further and taking all three points.

Two weeks ago Neil Lennon's side produced one of the competition's all time shocks in beating Barcelona 2-1, having lost by the same margin on a heart-breaking night at the Nou Camp in the reverse fixture.

And with qualification now firmly in sight as a result, Lennon should have no difficulty rallying the troops for one more huge effort as they bid to condemn Benfica to the Europa League.

Don't forget that Celtic's position in the standings owes as much to their victory in Moscow as it does that incredible night at Celtic Park and bet365's 5/1 in the draw no bet market looks to underestimate the Hoops.

Benfica might have won their last four but they didn't look to hold a significant class advantage over Celtic when the sides played out a 0-0 draw in September, and their home record in this competition isn't to be feared.

Lennon was full of praise for his side after their 2-0 win at Aberdeen on Saturday, and while aware of the task ahead is confident his side have what it takes to qualify.

"It's a huge three points for us," he told reporters. "We looked a good team and it sets us up nicely for Tuesday."

Benfica do deserve to be favourites but 1/2 about a home win pays no respect to Celtic's recent achievements and we're siding with another supposed shock.

The bankers of the night - if one takes the view that 1/3 about Barcelona is a shade skinny - look to be BATE Borisov, who host Lille at 1700 BST.

BATE fought back admirably to reduce a 3-0 deficit to 3-2 at Valencia last time and despite eventually falling to a 4-2 defeat they remain in contention for a qualification spot.

If they are to reach the next stage they'll probably need to beat Lille and the evidence of the campaign so far is that they're more than capable of doing so.

The reverse of this fixture saw BATE 3-0 up before half-time and a subsequent 3-1 victory over Bayern Munich shows that they're capable of putting on a show at this level, whereas Lille look out of their depth.

The loss of Eden Hazard to Chelsea has hit the Ligue 1 outfit hard and Friday's 2-0 defeat at Lorient leaves them adrift of the leaders in eighth.

Lille have managed just two goals scored to 12 conceded in this competition and with zero points from four games they sit bottom of their group with no prospects of continuing any sort of European adventure, so with a trip to Marseille on Sunday lying in wait their focus may lie elsewhere.

Even at full strength, there's nothing to suggest they're capable of beating BATE who look well worth a decent bet at evens.

Finally, we'll have a small play on Manchester United to beat Galatasaray at 13/5.

Of course, as the only side in the competition to have gained 12 points from a possible 12, United are already through to the next stage of the competition as winners of Group H.

And with Galatasaray locked in a three-way battle to join them, it's natural that the layers consider incentive to be a big factor here.

But that shouldn't mean the Turkish side - who lost their unbeaten home record in their domestic league on Friday - should be just a shade of odds-against to beat a hugely superior United outfit.

Yes, they did cause Sir Alex Ferguson's men some problems at Old Trafford but they ultimately failed to score and defeat to Braga at home shows how vulnerable they are, as does a 1-1 draw with CFC Cluj.

United haven't lost on either of their visits to Galatasaray either so even with a much-changed side set to take to the field they're worth a small bet at the odds.

  • Preview posted at 1225 GMT on 19/11/2012.