Matchday five of the Champions League is upon us, and plenty of business remains to be done.
The Italian Job
Celtic’s latest Champions League bid has mainly been forgettable, and failure to win in Italy would see them dumped out of Europe.
Last Chance Saloon
Two wins from two and favours from elsewhere. That is the only way that Celtic can still reach this season’s Champions League Round of 16 and considering they have picked up one point from the first 12 on offer, that is looking like a rather tall order.
Their single point came in an impressive showing at home to Atletico Madrid. A 2-2 draw at Celtic Park and a platform to build upon for the quickfire return visit? Unfortunately not and after suffering a 6-0 thrashing in the Spanish capital, even hopes of Europa League football have been dented.
Defeat that leaves them five points behind Lazio in third and with the Italian outfit knowing that even avoiding defeat at the Stadio Olimpico will secure some form of continental exploits after the turn of the year, they will be in no mood to roll out the red carpet.
While Celtic can be accused of precisely doing that at the weekend and with a visit of Motherwell usually being considered a Scottish Premiership formality for the Hoops, there was nothing formal about their 1-1 draw in front of their own support.
A stalemate that created a rather nervy 24 hours for the current league leaders and an increased focus on the Aberdeen versus Rangers clash the following lunchtime. Luckily for Brendan Rodgers and his players, their nearest rivals spurned the opportunity to close the gap at the top.
Lady luck shining on Sunday, but it might not be luck that aides Celtic on Tuesday night. Maurizio Sarri’s men finished second last season and were considered the best of Napoli’s rest, this time around they only sit 11th in the table.
In addition to this, the Rome-based outfit have failed to win any of their last three Serie A outings and at the weekend they suffered the ignominy of a 2-1 defeat at the hands of bottom of the table Salernitana.
A run of three of matches without a win appearing straight after a run of three wins on the bounce. Just when Lazio looked like they were building a head of steam and being a part of this season’s Serie A European conversation has their voice been rather diminished.
Which is why victory is not just important in the context of keeping Celtic out of Europe but also in the context of Maurizio Sarri’s long-term job prospects. The freefall has been an alarming one this season, it cannot be allowed to get much worse either.
But now it is time for the first of my two tips and with a draw being the one result that will scupper both team’s hopes, the will to win will be strong enough for Lazio to come out on top. A home win and both teams to score can be backed at the inviting price of 11/5.
In addition to this, I am going to back Kyogo Furuhashi to put the cat amongst the pigeons and put Celtic ahead. The Japanese forward scored when they met previously at Celtic Park, I am backing him to break the deadlock at odds of 17/2.