Leverkusen v Celtic
Celtic suffered 4-3 and 4-0 defeats to Real Betis and Leverkusen in their opening two games, but back-to-back victories over Ferencvaros has put them back into the picture for qualification and their form is vastly better now. They’ve won eight of nine unbeaten matches since their meeting with Leverkusen at the end of September, and although the German outfit represent a step up in quality compared to Celtic’s usual opponents, Gerardo Seoane does have a number of absent players ahead of this fixture.
In attack, Patrick Schick is injured and both Lucas Alario and Karim Bellarabi are doubts, though they shouldn’t be lacking in firepower with Moussa Diaby, Florian Wirtz and Amine Adli set to feature. Indeed Diaby and Wirtz have produced a combined 13 goals and 11 assists so far this season, and Leverkusen had no problems carving out opportunities in the reverse fixture as they produced 18 shots with 11 on target.
Elsewhere, midfield trio Kerem Demirbay, Julian Baumgartlinger and Charles Aanguiz are all unavailable, with the former suspended and the other two injured, while left-back Mitchel Bakker also misses out. That should mean a midfield partnership of Robert Andrich and Exequiel Palacios, with youngster Piero Hincapie to fill in at left-back.
Ange Postecoglou isn’t without any concerns of his own with Christopher Jullien still sidelined, while there are doubts over the fitness of fellow centre-backs Carl Starfelt and Stephen Welsh, as well as midfielder Tom Rogic. Given Celtic’s lack of clean sheets when taking on competent opponents, both teams should have chances to score here. Leverkusen are enduring a tricky patch and are W2-D3-L3 since the October international break, with just two clean sheets of their own across these outings.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Rapid Vienna v West Ham
West Ham suffered their first defeat in eight at the weekend as they went down to Wolves, and though they drew their last Europa League outing with Genk, they’ll expect to return to winning ways here. They won their first three group stage games by a combined 7-0 scoreline, while David Moyes only has the one injury concern with Angelo Ogbonna set to miss the rest of the season, and will likely wring the changes to give some first team stars a rest.
Although a weakened line-up hampers West Ham’s prospects in this fixture, they should still have plenty about them to see of the challenge of Rapid Vienna, who prop up the group, while there’ll still be a strong bench to call upon if things aren’t going to plan. The Austrian outfit have as many as seven players missing for this fixture through injury and head into the clash having lost two of their past three outings, going down 3-1 to Dinamo Zagreb and then 4-1 to Wolfsberger AC. Although they did win last time out, this was a narrow 1-0 success over Rheindorf Altach, who currently occupy last place in the Austrian Bundesliga.
WEST HAM TO WIN
Rangers v Sparta Prague
Rangers have to dust themselves off after a painful 3-1 defeat to Hibernian in their Scottish League Cup semi-final, with that their first appearance since Steven Gerrard left for Aston Villa. Giovanni van Bronckhorst takes charge of his first game here, and there’s no room for error with Rangers and Sparta Prague locked on four points behind runaway group winners Lyon.
Sparta Prague haven’t exactly prepared for this crunch clash in ideal fashion either, suffering a 4-0 defeat to Slovacko domestically to leave them in fourth place, five points adrift of leaders Slavia Prague. Although the Czech outfit did manage a 1-0 win over Rangers in the reverse fixture, their recent record in European competition isn’t especially encouraging as they’re W5-D2-L13 since 2017/18. That includes eight defeats from 10 road trips, as they conceded at least twice in each loss. Given the visitors have a lengthy injury list to contend with, Rangers will expect to deliver at Ibrox, and the visitors can expect a hostile atmosphere after unsavoury incidents in the Gers recent clashes with Czech outfits.
RANGERS TO WIN
Leicester v Legia Warsaw
Legia Warsaw threw in a surprise as they beat Leicester 1-0 in the reverse fixture at the end of September. However, things have gone completely pear-shaped for them since that encounter, as they’ve subsequently lost eight of nine appearances and conceded at least three times on six occasions. Even the exception came in a narrow 1-0 win when taking on third-tier minnows Swit Skolwin in a domestic cup tie, while that form has left them 17th in the 18-team Ekstraklasa.
Leicester are hardly in stellar form themselves and are without a win in five outings now, though did beat Brighton on penalties in the League Cup and had further stalemates with Spartak Moscow and Leeds, while their defeats over this spell were inflicted by Arsenal and Chelsea. They should be able to take advantage of Legia Warsaw’s desperate form, and all but one of the Foxes’ 10 victories in Europe since 2016/17 have seen them lead at both half time and full time.
LEICESTER/LEICESTER - HT/FT
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