BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Zenit to go on the attack against Celtic

Europa League last-32 second leg
BT Sport 3, 6pm Thursday


Take a punt on a goal feast at the Krestovsky Stadium a week after the first encounter between Zenit and Celtic turned into a damp squib.

Zenit, in the midst of their winter hibernation, were caught cold in Glasgow as they went down to a 1-0 defeat but they can turn the heat up on Brendan Rodgers’ men in the return leg.

Roberto Mancini’s men are solid favourites and deservedly so given their excellent home record. Having to score in front of their own fans is no challenge to them.

They’ve scored at least two goals in 19 of their last 21 home Europa League games (not including qualifying matches) and may well have to score at least two to oust the Scottish champions. Banking on more than three goals in the match looks to be the way to go.

The pitch should be conducive to an open, decent affair since a new hybrid surface has just been laid and the roof will be shut to keep out the Arctic chill.

Zenit will have warmed up after their first competitive run-out of 2018 at Parkhead. They weren’t particularly impressive going down to Callum McGregor’s second-half strike, but the rust is out of the system and Mancini doesn’t seem overly perturbed and is backing his lads to get it right second time.

It's easy to see why he would trust his personnel. They amassed 16 points out of 18 to top Group L and scored eight times in three home matches. Five of their six matches produced over 2.5 goals.

Alexander Kokorin and Emiliano Rigoni, with 11 goals between them in the group stage, are genuine dangermen.

Celtic have taken some seriously heavy defeats on the road in Europe and aren’t at full strength. They’ve also put in some fairly insipid efforts domestically of late.

But the Scottish champions have got goals in them and pace to burn on the counter, and they will get chances to break against a team who are likely to be doing the bulk of the attacking.

Recommendation
Over 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus

13:30 TODAY

Burnley v Watford

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Burnley only scored 16 home goals in the league last season.
Expert verdict
Burnley will need to get to grips with balancing Premier League commitments with their Europa League ambitions this term and could be vulnerable after playing in Istanbul on Thursday night.Watford were full of energy in their opening win and can take advantage of any Clarets’ fatigue.