Weblog: The football punter

Scott Sinclair can spearhead Celtic charge

BT Sport 3, 8pm Thursday

Drawing on Celtic's domestic form is a dangerous tactic when assessing their chances in Europe but the Hoops have shown they can hold their own in the Europa League this term and they look a value bet to upset Valencia.

The Glaswegians are on a run of seven successive wins to nil in the league and cup and they carved through St Johnstone 5-0 last time out.

But they gave the best account of themselves in the group stage of Europe's secondary competition, advancing from a section featuring fearless Leipzig and Salzburg sides.

The highlight of the campaign was arguably the 2-1 home win over Leipzig, in which they lost the shot count 17-10 and had inferior possession but prevailed by virtue of their swift counter-attacking style.

The pace of Scott Sinclair and James Forrest in the final third will be crucial on the break against a Valencia team who often dominate possession but often fail to convert it into goalscoring opportunities.

Los Che have failed to put teams to the sword this term, with no La Liga side bettering their tally of 13 draws, and their threat in the final third is hindered by the absence of striker Santi Mina.

They claimed a point against Barcelona at Camp Nou earlier this month but followed it up with stalemates against Real Betis in the Copa del Rey and lowly Real Sociedad in La Liga.

Their only two wins in the Champions League, meanwhile, came against a fragile Young Boys side and Manchester United after the Red Devils had already made the last 16.

Celtic have been hard-pressed in their pursuit of an eighth successive Ladbrokes Premiership title, with Rangers emerging as potential contenders under Steven Gerrard, and that has made Brendan Rodgers's side more aware of complacency.

There is unlikely to be any of that at a buoyant Celtic Park, where they have beaten Zenit 1-0 and drawn 3-3 with Inter in two home European knockout matches.

For all their faults in the final third, Valencia are disciplined at the back, with only Getafe (19) and Atletico Madrid (17) having conceded fewer than Marcelino's men (20) in the league. The best bet may be to back Celtic to win without the game providing a feast of goals.

Sinclair bagged a hat-trick last time out and the winger will be at the forefront of Celtic's counters so backing him to score at any time is also an enticing bet.


Celtic to win & under 4.5 goals
S Sinclair to score at any time

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Match in Focus


Kazakhstan v Scotland

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Kazakhstan have conceded 89 goals in their last 40 qualification matches.
Expert verdict
Nearly 21 years have passed since the Tartan Army last followed Scotland to a major international tournament.However, there is a quiet confidence that the Scots can end that barren run. The Kazakhs are ranked 77 places below Scotland and have won only three of their last 40 major tournament qualifiers.