Celtic welcome Fenerbahce to Celtic Park on Thursday evening in match day two of this season’s Europa League group stages. Paired together in Group A with Ajax and Molde, both clubs are aiming to progress from the group stages into the round of 32.
Celtic shared the points with Dutch side Ajax in their opening Group A match with a 2-2 draw at the Amsterdam Arena. Goals from Nir Bitton and Mikael Lustig saw Celtic lead 2-1 before succumbing to a red card for defender Emilio Izaguirre and a late Ajax equaliser from Lasse Schone. Domestically, Celtic have secured one point from their last two league games, suffering defeat to Aberdeen and then being held to a goalless draw at Celtic Park by Hearts on Saturday. Coach Ronnie Deila will be hoping that his side can get back to winning ways against Fenerbahce in what could prove to be key match in the race for qualification from Group A. Celtic will be without the versatile Charlie Mulgrew who is sidelined with a thigh injury. Leigh Griffiths is again likely to prove Celtic’s main goalscoring threat, the Scotland international already having scored 8 goals this season.
Fenerbahce lost their opening match in Group A to Norwegian champions Molde, who deservedly ran out 3-1 winners in Istanbul and they will be looking for an improved performance at Celtic Park on Thursday. Fenerbahce do however go into Thursday’s match on the back of a 3-2 defeat on Sunday to their Istanbul rivals Besiktas, a loss which saw them replaced at the top of the Turkish Super Lig by their city rivals. Coach Vítor Pereira will be looking to star players Nani and Robin van Persie to kick-start Fenerbahce’s Europa League campaign as they aim to maintain their record of reaching the round of 32 every time they have featured in the competition, including when they reached the semi-final stage in season 2013/13. There are however rumours that already that the relationship between van Persie and coach Pereira is troubled, just eight games into van Persie’s Fenerbahce career. All eyes will be on the Fenerbahce team sheet before kick-off to see if van Persie will feature, or if Pereira will look for an alternative to lead the line against Celtic.
This will be the first time Celtic will ever have faced Turkish opponents. Turkish sides do not have a strong record against Scottish clubs, with as yet, no Turkish club ever winning a UEFA competition match in Scotland in seven attempts.
Celtic are the 2.7 (17/10) favourites for victory on Thursday evening with Fenerbahce 2.9 (19/10) and the draw 3.5 (5/2). The football tip for Thursday’s match is the draw at 3.5 (5/2).
By: Scott McGlynn