Europa League Preview: can Celtic keep their unbeaten run going?

Celtic vs Lazio:

Celtic face their toughest test so far in this year’s Europa League as they host Italian side Lazio. Neil Lennon will be relatively happy with his side’s performances so far, with a draw away at Rennes and a comfortable home win against Cluj being enough for them to sit at the top of the group.

Last years treble winners now find themselves needing a good result on Thursday, as a double header against the Italians in the coming weeks could decide the fate of their European ambitions this season in a very competitive group.

Domestically, Celtic have not looked as ruthless as last year, with a loss to Livingston and a draw at Hibs leaving them tied at the top of the Scottish Premiership alongside Rangers. They did, however, put six goals past Ross County on Saturday whilst Lazio were held to a 3-3 draw at home against Atalanta.

The Italian side will be no pushovers. Currently sitting on 3 points alongside Cluj, Lazio also need a decent run of wins to secure their place in the last 16 of the competition. Dangerman Ciro Immobile will pose a threat to the Celtic defence as he usually does with his opponents, already netting double figures this season in all competitions. Lazio also have an impressive midfield balance with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ex-Liverpool players, Luis Alberto and Lucas Leiva, the latter winning the club’s Player Of the Season award last year.

Celtic head coach Neil Lennon confirmed on Wednesday that Olivier Ntcham is still unfit, but Tom Rogic and Ryan Christie should both be a part of the matchday squad, a real boost for Celtic as Christie has been one of their most impressive and consistent performers so far this campaign.


Porto vs Rangers:

Credit – Heather Miller

Rangers will look to put Sunday’s frustrating draw at Hearts behind them when they take on European giants Porto in Thurday’s early kick off in Portugal.

Steven Gerrard’s side failed to take advantage of results around them two weeks ago, as they slipped to late defeat against Young Boys in Switzerland, a game they felt they could have won. After an impressive 1-0 win at home to Feyenoord in game week 1, The Gers could have put themselves top of the group with a win in Switzerland but instead join the rest of the teams on 3 points.

Rangers find themselves mixed with an equally hard group as they did last year, when they failed to reach the knockout stage. Making qualification to the last 16 a huge challenge for head coach Steven Gerrard, who has made his side a more competitive force in Europe after a long absence.

Sunday’s draw at Tynecastle will have dampened the mood a little going into the showdown as they now have arch-rivals Celtic for company at the top of the Premiership, but Gerrard will be hoping for a big response on against the 2004 Champions League winners.

Porto oftenfind themselves amongst the worlds best in the Champions League but an unusually poor domestic campaign by their incredibly high standards resulted in them taking a step down into the Europa League group stages.

They started off well in week 1 with a home win over Young Boys but slumped to defeat against Feyenoord in game week 2 which left them on three points.

Porto were in cup action on the weekend with a comfortable 5-0 win over Coimbroes and currently sit 3rd in the Portuguese league.

Rangers’ only notable absentee from the match tonight is midfielder Ryan Jack, who sustained a knee injury two weeks ago against Young Boys. The Scot also put pen to paper this week to commit his future to the Glasgow side, which will no doubt have raised spirits inside the changing room.

For the home side, midfielder Sergio Oliviera remains on the side-lines but their strike-partnership of Ze Luis and Moussa Marega will be fit and firing, having contributed to 11 goals so far this season respectively.


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