Celtic take on Malmo on Wednesday evening at Celtic Park in the first-leg of the Champions League play-off round. With the winner of the tie qualifying for the lucrative Champions League group stages, both teams will be aiming to put in a strong performance to take into next week’s second-leg.
Celtic over came the Azerbaijan team Qarabag FK in the previous round, winning 1-0 on aggregate thanks to a late goal in the first leg at Celtic Park courtesy of defender Dedryck Boyata. Champions of Scotland last season, Celtic are unbeaten after the first four games of this season, taking 10 points out a possible 12 so far. An impressive 4-2 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle at the weekend was the perfect way to go into Wednesday’s match. Celtic manager Ronny Deila has a full squad to choose from and may opt to bring Turkish striker Nadir Ciftciback into the side. Ciftci is currently facing a domestic ban until the middle of September having bitten another player at the end of last season. Deila may choose to bring Ciftci in for fellow striker Leigh Griffiths, or he may opt to play both in a more attacking line up. Captain Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew could also feature having missed the past couple of games with injuries.
Malmo are the current champions of Sweden and secured their place in the Champions League Qualifying Play-Off by overcoming Red bull Salzburg 3-2 on aggregate. Having been beaten 2-0 in the first leg, a 3-0 triumph at home was enough to see them progress in dramatic fashion. Swedish champions last year, Malmo are currently in fifth place in the Allvenskan this season after 20 games. They are at present in good form, unbeaten in their last five league games, winning the last two. Their main goal threat will come from Markus Rosenberg and Jo Inge Berget, who have each scored seven goals this season. Berget was on loan at Celtic for the first six months of season, scoring two goals, so Celtic will be more than aware of his capabilities. Malmo have a 100% record against Scottish sides, defeating both Rangers and Hibernian in recent seasons.
Celtic are favourites for victory on Wednesday evening at 1.61 (4/6) with Malmo available at 6 (5/1) and the draw 4.1 (31/10) . With entry to the Champions League group stages on the line, Wednesday’s match may be a cagey affair but Celtic will be looking to gain a first-leg advantage. Celtic have an impressive record at home in Champions League qualifying games,winning 10 out of their last 11 and keeping eight clean sheets. With this in mind, the football tip is for Celtic to win at 1.61.
By: Scott McGlynn