Contrasting moods for Glasgow giants/h2>
It’s matchday five of the UEFA Europa League and both halves of the Old Firm are back in action. Celtic visit AC Milan with the Bhoys bottom of Group H and already out of the competition. Neil Lennon’s side are under immense pressure and the manager knows another defeat could spell the end of his second spell in charge.
Things are going much better for Rangers boss Steven Gerrard with the Govan side within touching distance of the next round. Gers are unbeaten in four and sit top of Group D. A draw at home with Standard Liege would be enough to seal the deal but the hosts are likely to target the win and pile pressure on nearest rivals Benfica.
Rangers v Standard Liege
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Rangers have performed above expectations so far in Group D and take an unbeaten record into game five. The Scottish Premiership leaders are in pole position in the pool after winning each of their first two against Standard Liege and Lech Poznan before drawing home and away with Benfica. Gers led on both occasions but conceded late to share with the Portuguese giants.
The hosts were last seen in action hammering Falkirk in the League Cup on Sunday away from home. Experienced striker Jermain Defoe puts his men ahead inside six minutes before a first goal from Calvin Bassey doubled the advantage. Borna Barisic curled home a beautiful freekick then captain James Tavernier added a fourth to put the game to bed. It was another show of strength from Rangers and the perfect preparation for this match.
Liege leave it late to bag first win
Standard Liege were one of the early betting favourites to progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League, but they enter this match bottom of the pool. The visitors have three points on the board thanks to one win and three defeats, scoring three goals and conceding nine. A top-two finish remains a possibility but anything short of a convincing win in Govan will kill off their chances.
Liege did pick-up their first win of the group campaign last time out when beating Lech Poznan 2-1 at home. In an incident-packed match, both teams finished with 10 men with Standard Liege nicking the points thanks to a goal scored deep in stoppage time. It was far from a convincing performance but that win kept alive their chances of sneaking through.
Gers defence to stand firm
Rangers have impressed in the Europa League once again and it is no surprise to see them start this match as favourites to bank another win. Rangers are 1.434/9 on the Betfair Exchange for victory with Standard Liege 6.86/1 for an away win and the draw 4.84/1.
Benfica were the only team to break down the home defence in six games last month and Gerrard will expect his backline to stand firm again. Under 2.5 goals in this game is worth a bet at 2.56/4 or there’s 1.528/15 for over.
AC Milan v Celtic
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AC Milan sit second in Group H, one point behind leaders Lille but only one ahead of Sparta Prague in third. A place in the knockout stages of the competition hangs in the balance after failing to record a win in their last two but their fate is in their own hands. A home win would put them within touching distance of knockout football.
The Serie A side lost 3-0 against Lille when last at this venue and were held to a 1-1 in France a week ago. Castillejo Azuaga scored to give Milan a lead early in the second half but Lille responded through Bamba on 65 minutes to snatch a point. AC warmed up for this clash by beating Fiorentina 2-0 on Sunday, Ramognoli and Kessie on target.
Bad to worse for Celtic
It’s fast becoming a nightmare season for Celtic as Lennon’s side stumble from one embarrassing defeat to the next. They are rock bottom of the group and winless in their first four games, drawing one and losing three. Celts have scored five goals but already conceded 13 following two heavy defeats against Sparta Prague. An under-strength Sparta took a shock 4-1 win at Celtic Park before repeating the feat on their patch in the return.
Following that defeat in Prague, Celtic were eliminated from the League Cup by Ross County in Glasgow on Sunday. The Staggies rocked their hosts with a 2-0 win, a result that sparked outrage amongst Celtic fans. Several supporters gathered outside the stadium to voice their displeasure and call for the sacking of Lennon.
Form makes Milan strong favourites
The fact AC Milan are fighting for top spot in the group and have home advantage over bottom of the pool explains why they are strong favourites to win on Thursday. Betfair Exchange users can back the locals at 1.392/5 with Celtic trading at 7.87/1 and the draw 5.49/2.
Celtic have conceded 13 goals in their last five games in all competitions and that will be music to the ears of bettors looking to go over on the goals. There’s 1.4640/85 on more than two goals in this game with under 2.5 the alternative at 2.727/4.