Champions League Qualifiers Previews

There is a full schedule of midweek Champions League fixtures as the 1st Qualifying Round comes to a close.

FC Riga v Dundalk, Wednesday 17th July 5.30pm

The bookies are finding it difficult to separate these sides and, after last week’s scoreless stalemate at Oriel Park, it’s difficult to disagree.

Vinny Perth’s side are around 4/5 to qualify, while Latvian champions FC Riga are about 20/21 to progress to the next qualifying round. The first leg was an evenly contested encounter and Perth will thank his lucky stars that his team emerged without conceding a crucial away goal. He will be conscious, however, that they took a similar first leg scoreline to Cyprus last summer but were hammered 4-0 in the return leg by AEK Larnaca. He will also know that the hosts – so disciplined in their defending in the opening leg – will have to attack on Wednesday evening, leaving them open to the threat of counter attacks from Dundalk.

Dundalk have scored in ten of their last twelve European away games and the League of Ireland top scorers will be confident of finding the net in the Latvian capital. However, they’ve only scored more than once in one of those dozen fixtures. A 1-1 draw will be enough to see them through to face either Albania’s Partizani or Azerbaijan’s Qarabağ, and that is available at around 5/1.

Dundalk’s experience could be pivotal against a side only playing their fourth European tie on Wednesday night. We expect the Louth side to progress but it will probably not be comprehensive. A draw and both sides to score can be backed at around 15/4.

Riga were successful in keeping the League of Ireland’s top scorer Patrick Hoban quiet last week, but the 27-year-old should have more opportunities in a tie that simply has to be more open.

Celtic v FK Sarajevo, Wednesday 17th July 7.45pm

We correctly tipped Celtic to win and both teams to score in the first leg last week, though Neil Lennon’s side went one better than our predicted scoreline of a 2-1 victory for The Bhoys.

A 3-1 cushion ahead of the second leg at Celtic Park should ease any jitters and it should be a comfortable procession to the second qualifying round, where the winners will face either Estonia’s Nõmme Kalju or North Macedonian champions Shkëndija.

Despite coming from behind to secure their win in Bosnia, Celtic bossed the majority of the match and should record a straightforward win on Wednesday night.

Odsonne Edouard put them in front last Tuesday and the French striker, linked with Lazio in recent weeks, is 3/1 to open the scoring on Wednesday night and 2/3 to get on the scoresheet in 90 minutes with Bet365.

FK Sarajevo’s goal on the half-hour mark last week highlighted Celtic’s weaknesses defending set pieces and it would be no surprise to see the Bosnian champions find the net again. A home win and both teams to score is available at around 21/10. A repeat of last week’s 3-1 scoreline looks decent value at 10/1.

This week’s other Champions League fixtures

*All prices taken from Ladbrokes on 15/07

Tuesday 16th July

HB (4/1) vs HJK (4/6)  – Draw (27/10)

Shkendija  (2/15) vs Nomme Kalju (25/1) – Draw (7/1)

Saburtalo Tbilisi (33/20) vs Sheriff (6/4) – Draw (12/5)

Valletta (29/20) vs Dudelange (9/5) – Draw (23/10)

Crvena Zvezda (1/8) vs FK Suduva (28/1) – Draw (7/1)

Feronnikeli (23/20) vs The New Saints (23/10) – Draw (23/10)

Wednesday 17th July

AIK (2/13) vs Avan Academy (22/1) – Draw (6/1)

CFR Cluj (4/5) vs Astana (4/1)  – Draw (23/10)

Qarabag (1/4) vs Partizani (16/1)  – Draw (4/1)

Piast Gliwice (19/20) vs BATE Borisov (16/5) vs  – Draw (9/4)

Ludogorets (7/10) vs Ferencváros (4/1)  – Draw (13/5)

FK Sutjeska (13/2) vs Slovan Bratislava (1/2) – Draw (19/5)

Rosenborg (2/15) vs Linfield (25/1) – Draw (7/1)

Maribor (4/11) vs Valur (15/2) – Draw (19/5)

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