UEFA Champions League Group H. Kick Off: 7.45pm. Live on Sky Sports 3.
Either side have failed to record a win so far in Group H so the double header between former European Cup winners Celtic and Ajax looks like a two-legged battle for a Europa League spot post-Christmas.
Ajax were unfortunate not to take three points in Matchday 2 against AC Milan but their draw sees them go into the game on one point, ahead of the Hoops so arguably they can afford, and would be happy with, a point from Celtic Park. The Dutch side have yet to win away from home this season. A 1-1 draw at top-of-the-table FC Twente on Saturday was their 5th win-less match on the road in the Eredivisie so perhaps a share of the spoils is the best they can hope for.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon has been dealt a huge blow with the news that the influential Kris Commons will miss the game. They’ll also be without club captain Scott Brown (suspended) and Adam Matthews (injured), although Mikael Lustig looks set to feature. Lennon will take great confidence from Celtic’s home record in the Champions League where they’ve lost just 2 games in 22, both to Barcelona and has already called on the Celtic support via twitter to “Bring The Thunder”.
For his opposite number Ronald De Boer it’s a return to Glasgow where he enjoyed a brief spell in the blue half of the city, however his two matches as a player resulted in defeated so he has some scores to settle. He’s brought success back to the Amsterdam side with 3 titles in a row, although they’ve yet to scale the heights of previous seasons yet this term. Their recent Champions League record is a bit of a worry too. They’ve won just one of their last ten although to be fair they’ve been involved in some very tough groups in recent years.
On the stats alone – Celtic’s fine home record verus Ajax’s poor away record and their run of result ins the Champions League – it’s looking like a win for the home side in a game they really must win. Betfred, Coral and StanJames all go 6/4 that Celtic will claim all three points. It’s 12/5 (Bet365) the draw and Ajax can be backed at 21/10 (Bet365).
My biggest concern for Celtic is their lack of quality in the final third. Stokes has yet to prove himself at this level whilst new arrival Teemu Pukki has yet to show value for money. Samaras has saved his best Celtic performances for Europe but you never know what you’re going to get with the big Greek. With no Commons to rely on I worry where goals will come from. Ajax will be looking to Icelandic striker Sigthorsson to provide their focal point but reports from those in the know suggest that Celtic defender Van Dijk has fared well against him in previous encounters in Eredivisie. Winger Viktor Fischer has also failed to light up this season for the Dutchmen so we’re looking at two sides with limited attacking options.
As highlighted in our preview of the other game in this group, goals have come later in games and this one should be no different. Take Boylesports 1/1 that the first goal comes after the 27th minute. You should also have a look at 10/11 with StanJames on there being under 2.5 goals and I’d recommend a small stake bet on this being goal-less. But remember never back the score to be 0-0 – always, always back there to be No Goalscorer, just in case the only goal of the game is an own goal. No Goalscorer can be backed at 10/1 with SkyBet, Coral or Betfred.
Selectabet’s Best Bets
First goal scored 27+ minutes 1/1 (Boylesports)
Under 2.5 goals 10/11 (StanJames)