Sparta Prague v Rangers
Rangers may have lost their opening encounter with Lyon, but that was their only defeat in their past 10 (W7-D2-L1), and they’ve certainly been resilient in Europe with just one defeat in their past nine away on the continent. Their hosts have made a decent start to their league campaign with a W6-D3-L1 record so far, but they endured a dull goalless stalemate with Brondby on the opening day in this competition, in a game they would have expected to win.
Sparta Prague are still missing star striker Lukas Julis through injury, who bagged five goals against Celtic in this competition last term, so this could end up being quite a low-scoring affair. Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard is also missing a key attacking component with Ryan Kent remaining sidelined, and his team have been involved in a number of tight encounters of late.
Six of Rangers’ past seven matches have seen under 2.5 goals, as have five of their past seven European matches, which includes both legs of their Last 32 exit to another Czech outfit in Slavia Prague last term.
UNDER 2.5 GOALS
Legia Warsaw v Leicester
Leicester were the more dominant side in their opener against Napoli and will be hugely disappointed at letting a two-goal lead slip. Still, a point against the Italian outfit represents a decent result, especially when considering Napoli have begun their Serie A campaign in lightning fashion with six consecutive wins.
Legia Warsaw grabbed an injury-time winner against Spartak Moscow in their first game, though were under pressure for large chunks of that game. Although that leaves them W7-D3-L2 in European competition since the start of last season, they haven’t encountered anyone of Leicester’s class, with all but their most recent clash coming in qualifiers.
The Polish side also come into this fixture having lost three of their past four league games, even conceding three times at home to Rakow Czestochowa at the weekend. Although Leicester are hardly in stellar form themselves, they should expect to take command of this fixture. Wilfried Ndidi is suspended after his sending off against Napoli, while James Justin and Wesley Fofana are long-term absentees, but other than that Brendan Rodgers has a full compliment to choose from and his squad doesn’t lack depth.
LEICESTER TO WIN
Celtic v Leverkusen
Leverkusen have won five of their past six matches as the exception came in a 4-3 defeat to Borussia Dortmund. They’ve been involved in a number of crazy games with five of these featuring a minimum of four goals, while all but one featured at least three, so there should be plenty of entertainment at Parkhead on Thursday.
Ange Postecoglou also likes his team to play on the front foot and although he’ll be disappointed with his side’s output in their 1-1 draw with Dundee Utd at the weekend, Celtic haven’t found scoring goals on home turf a problem. So far they’ve won seven of eight unbeaten games there this season, netting at least three times in six of these, though the defence is hardly in top shape. Home or away, the Hoops are just W2-D1-L4 heading into this fixture, with just two clean sheets from these fixtures.
Celtic’s opening group stage match saw seven goals as they went down 4-3 to Real Betis. Nine of their past 12 in Europe have featured at least three goals now and seven of them saw at least four strikes, with these games containing 50 goals in total.
OVER 2.5 GOALS
West Ham v Rapid Vienna
West Ham opened their Europa League campaign with a solid 2-0 win away to Dinamo Zagreb, while they’ve made a strong start to their domestic campaign as well. They’re W5-D2-L1 in all competitions this season, as the only defeat was inflicted by Man Utd, maintaining the standards they set last term where they achieved a sixth-place finish and finished just two points adrift of Chelsea.
Rapid Vienna have failed to win any of their past six outings over 90 minutes, losing four of the past five, including a 1-0 defeat to Genk in their group opener. Their latest outing saw them go down 3-0 at home to Sturm Graz, meaning they’ve failed to score in three of their past four outings, while they haven’t been good travellers in Europe in recent times as they’ve lost 10 of 13 trips since 2018/19.
David Moyes seems set to take this competition seriously as he sent out a strong team in their opening game. Although he may tweak his line-up a little to keep the side fresh, he’s still expected to field something close to full strength, with Ryan Fredericks his only injury concern at present. The visitors have four players sidelined, including first-choice goalkeeper Richard Strebinger, as well as captain and centre-back Christopher Dibon, and it would be a surprise if they didn’t struggle on the road once more.
WEST HAM TO WIN TO NIL