End Of The European Road
Although Real Madrid have earned safe passage to the Round of 16, there is still some work for them to do.
Gulf In Class
After last week’s home draw with Shakhtar, Celtic’s European adventure has now ended and with a route to the Europa League also closed off, Ange Postecoglou’s men must now deal with a trip to Real Madrid.
Although Matchday 6 has a habit of serving up dead rubbers, this is not the case for the Hoops, and with the defending champions requiring a win to secure top spot in Group E, they will not be in the mood to show any mercy.
Going into Wednesday evening’s fixtures, the equation is rather simple. If Real Madrid gets the better of Celtic at the Santiago Bernabeu, they will be seeded for the Round of 16 draw. Fail to do so, and here is where things start to get interesting.
If the holders lose or draw and RB Leipzig gets the better of Shakhtar in Warsaw, it will be the German outfit that pinches the seeding for themselves. If the holders draw or lose and RB Leipzig fails to come out on top, Los Blancos will fend off Marco Rose’s side.
An equation that ultimately means bad news for Celtic and although they travel to the Spanish capital with nothing to lose, the gulf in class between Livingston at the weekend and Real Madrid in midweek, is nothing short of a chasm.
This means even with the luxury of a free hit in their luggage, a football in Real’s possession is a moving target and therefore, it is going to be incredibly difficult for Celtic to try and land a knockout blow.
Difficult but not impossible and with the upcoming hosts suffering a loss to RB Leipzig last week, the team that is synonymous with the Champions League has at least shown some recent vulnerability.
Then again, even the gulf in class between Celtic and their German Group E counterparts is considerably large, and after being outclassed by them both home and away, the learning curve has been rather steep for the Scottish Premiership champions.
A learning curve that manager Postecoglou will hope sets them in good stead for future appearances in the competition. Although for, the class of 2022/23 they are now set for one last hurrah at the highest level.
A level that sees the likes of Vinicius Jr terrorise opposition defences, and at odds of 7/2 for him to break the deadlock on Wednesday, I am backing the Brazilian forward to cause more misery in Madrid.
While the bad news does not stop there either, and after suffering a 3-0 reverse to Real in Matchday 1, this time, my hunch takes me towards a 2-0 loss instead. A hunch that is currently offering odds of 7/1.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.