Europa League Group A: Celtic hoping for home rule over Fenerbahce
European football returns to Parkhead as Scottish Premiership champions Celtic host Turkish giants Fenerbahce in their Europa League Group A clash, with the Bhoys aiming to extend their dominance on home soil this season.
Ronny Deila’s Hoops have gone unbeaten competitively at Celtic Park since March this year, a run stretching 18 games in all competitions, and the hosts are 6/4 with Coral to keep their Glasgow form intact with another victory.
Having missed out on Champions League qualification this summer with a play-off exit at the hands of Swedish side Malmo, Celtic are aiming to make in impact on the Europa League, though Fenerbahce pose a tough test and are 15/8 to secure all three points.
In the past, Parkhead has played host to many incredible European nights in the Champions League, with the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona having crumbled under the rapturous and intimidating atmosphere.
Although, travelling from Turkey, former Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles claims the Hoops’ euphoric 40k home crowd won’t have an effect on him or his teammates, being used to playing in Istanbul.
“I know Celtic is a big stadium and I know their atmosphere is well known. But if they think they can intimidate a Turkish team? All I can say is good luck,” said the Fenerbahce midfielder.
“I have played in some big games in Portugal and England, but there is nothing like playing in Turkey. I think on the return game, they will find out what intimidating means.”
The visitors have been involved in a recent downfall, having lost their domestic top spot after being toppled by rivals Besiktas and were surprisingly thumped in their opening European encounter against Molde. Despite their form, Meireles is confident of overcoming Celtic on their travels.
“Maybe Celtic do think it’s a good time to be playing us, I hope they do,” continued the Portugal international. “The result in the opening game was disappointing, but we are still very confident we can progress.
“We have some of the top players in Europe, there is never a good time to play us. I don’t expect Celtic to make it easy for us, but we are ready. Signing players like [Luis] Nani, [Robin] Van Persie and Lazar Markovic was a big injection of confidence for us over the summer.”
Hoops defender Dedryck Boyata faces familiar faces in former Manchester United duo Nani and Van Persie (7/4 and 5/4 respectively in the anytime scorer market) from his time with previous close rivals Manchester City, but claims his side are looking forward to making a statement.
“When I saw we had drawn Fenerbahce, Ajax and Molde, I was really happy as we knew we would be playing big games,” said Boyata. “Thursday is a big game, we all know it, and we are all looking forward to it. Thursday is a really big game and I want to play really well to make a statement.”
The Bhoys key attacking danger will again be Scotland international frontman Leigh Griffiths, with the feisty forward 6/1 to open proceedings on home soil, having already dispatched eight goals in all competitions this term.
Celtic will be without the suspended Emilio Izaguirre, following his sending off in the Netherlands, while Stefan Johansen may be in line for a recall. For the visitors, Van Persie has been used sparingly off the bench since arriving and could continue that way this time out, much to his annoyance.
Betting tip: Leigh Griffiths to score first at 6/1