Celtic welcome Zenit for the first leg of their Europa League last 32 clash on Thursday night. It will be the first competitive meeting between these two teams, and the Scots will be looking for an advantage to take into the second leg. The winter break in Russia means that Zenit have not been playing competitive matches in the build-up to this one, although a series of friendlies have kept the team ticking over ahead of what should be a fascinating battle in the round of 32.
Celtic are 9/5 as the Scottish champions look to take a lead into the second leg in Russia. The Hoops were unable to qualify from a Champions League group which included Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but they did pip Anderlecht to third position. It will be their first Europa League match since drawing 1-1 at Fenerbahce in December 2015, and there is no question that Brendan Rodgers will have his team fired up in a bid to triumph at Celtic Park.
Zenit are 83/50 as the Russian outfit attempt to upset the hosts in Scotland. As they’re currently on a break from domestic football, the visitors have played a number of friendlies in the build-up this match, most recently against Maribor on Saturday. They booked their spot in the knockout stages of the Europa League by topping a group that also saw Real Sociedad make the last 32, and Roberto Mancini’s side are fancied to make a serious impression in the competition this season.
The draw is 5/2, and with both managers desperate to avoid defeat, that does seem a good price. Zenit are undefeated in their last seven matches on the continent, but they have not kept a clean sheet in their last five, and Celtic will be confident of causing some problems. The Bhoys have not drawn any match since the end of December, however, and Zenit have only drawn one Europa League fixture since April 2015.
Moussa Dembele is 5/1 in the first goalscorer market this weekend, while the Frenchman can be backed at 9/1 to score two or more times during the 90 minutes of action. Dembele has six goals in his 18 European appearances for Celtic, and there is no question that he will be fired up against the Russian outfit on Thursday night.
Aleksandar Kokorin is 9/2 to break the deadlock for Zenit, while the forward can be backed at 8/1 to score two or more goals. The 26-year-old managed five goals in five Europa League group appearances earlier this season, and has also netted 10 times in 20 Russian Premier League matches during the 2017-18 campaign.
Predicted Score: Celtic 1 - 1 Zenit Saint Petersburg
Look out for:
The goals market. Zenit scored 17 goals in qualifying for the round of 32, which is more than any other team managed during the group stage. The Russian giants are capable of blowing Celtic away if they get it right, and it’s 5/1 that over 4.5 goals are scored at Celtic Park.
Correct score of 1-1 at 6/1. Zenit have been very impressive in the Europa League this season, but Celtic will be backed by a wonderful atmosphere. A low-scoring draw does appear a likely outcome in this one.
It’s a long shot, but:
Celtic to win 3-1 is available at 22/1. It promises to be another special European night at Celtic Park, and Rodgers’ side performed well at home to Bayern Munich in the group stage of the Champions League earlier this season.
Written by Matt Law
Matt Law is a European football writer with an interest in betting and gambling. An avid Manchester United supporter, Matt can regularly be found backing away wins in unlikely circumstances, sometimes with big success.