We’re into the penultimate round of Champions League qualifying and those involved are now just 360 minutes away from securing their place in the hallowed group stage.
Tensions will be running high in each of these first-leg matches, which should create for some fantastic football. Here is our 11/1 Wednesday night treble.
Grasshoppers v Lille. 6PM
After finishing third in last year’s Ligue 1 table, French club Lille have demonstrated their immense ability and they should have too much for Swiss side Grasshoppers.
The spending power of Monaco and PSG meant that Lille never really had a chance to win their domestic league in 2013/14, but they proved themselves to be a fantastic outfit and the Champions League would be a better competition with their inclusion.
Former Chelsea winger Salamon Kalou fired 16 league goals last term and has resurrected his career as a central striker. He has been key to Lille’s success and will be key to their Champions League ambitions.
Lille boast a particularly strong spine to their team and manager Rene Girard will be confident about his team’s chances against Grasshoppers. The French side should have no trouble in winning this contest over two legs but would love to take a lead back to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy next week.
With Grasshoppers entering this clash on the back of consecutive league defeats confidence may be low for the hosts. Expect Lille to capitalise.
Ludogorets Razgrad v Partizan Belgrade. 7PM
Bulgarian side Ludogorets may not be a team that everyone is familiar with. However, they’ve emerged as a very handy outfit and it would be no surprise to see them reach the Champions League group phase.
Last year, Razgrad enjoyed an incredible run in the Europa Leauge and made it all the way to the round of 16 before losing to Spanish giants Valencia. However, in storming through a group that included both PSV and Dinamo Zagreb, they more than showed their European pedigree.
Meanwhile, a two-legged victory over Lazio in the round of 32 is one of the greatest achievements in the club’s history. That could yet be beaten in this year’s Champions League, but they must first overcome a decent Partizan Belgrade.
Fans will be far more familiar with the Serbians but the truth is that the standard of their domestic league is very poor right now and that is impacting Partizan. They are still the best side in their country by a distance but they may well struggle with their trip to Bulgaria.
If Partizan can keep the score close then they’ll definitely fancy their chances in next week’s return leg. However, for now at least, we think it is Ludogorets who will prevail.
Legia Warsaw v Celtic. 7:45PM
Celtic might not be the best European travellers but we’re backing the Hoops to claim a crucial win on Wednesday as they look to take another step towards another Champions League group phase.
Ronny Deila made a huge fuss about the fact Celtic entered at such a premature stage of the competition and his players underlined that with their emphatic win over Iceland’s KR Reykjavik in the last round – they could further validate the gaffer’s comments with a win in Poland.
Legia may have ended St Patrick’s chance of a dream tie against Celtic with a crushing 5-0 second-leg triumph, but it is well worth noting that the Poles very nearly lost to the Irish side on home soil. Only a late equaliser from Miroslav Radovic could spare his side’s blushes in that game and the hosts will need to be much better if they want to stop the SPL giants.
Celtic should progress over two legs but will want to secure a positive result in the Polish capital. We think they will.
A £10 treble returns £120.30 with BetVictor