Celtic v AEK Athens the pick of the matches, with Russian giants Spartak Moscow also in action
There are three more UEFA Champions League third round qualifying, first leg ties set to take place this coming Wednesday night (8 August). And there is no doubt as to the pick of the three clashes – the meeting between Scottish league champions Glasgow Celtic and Greek league winners AEK Athens.
First things first
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As noted above, the most intriguing of the three ties would appear to be the encounter between Celtic and AEK Athens at Celtic Park in Glasgow. The Scottish club, under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers, sauntered to the SPL title in May but need to start asserting themselves in continental competition.
AEK, meanwhile, will be playing their first competitive game of the new season and may well be a little rusty during the opening exchanges. By way of comparison, Celtic have already played five games, winning four of those, including a 3-1 win over Livingston in their opening league match of the campaign.
And Celtic also come into this tie as the favourites to progress in the continental competition. Looking at a straightforward bet on who will qualify over the two legs, the Scottish side are priced at just 1.61 to reach the group stages, while you could potentially more than doubly your money by backing AEK to do so at 2.10, according to Oddsshark.
And in the first leg itself Celtic are again at the shorter price to take an advantage into the return encounter later this month. You can back the Scots to win in front of their own fans at just 1.72, with AEK priced further out at 5.25 and a stalemate coming in at a price of 3.40 – a 2-1 win for Celtic is priced at 9.00, offering close to a ten-fold return on any investment.
Also on the cards for the evening is a clash between Austrian league champions Red Bull Salzburg and Macedonian outfit Shkendija Tetovo. Red Bull come into this match full of confidence having won all three competitive games they have played at the start of the new season.
Shkendija meanwhile have already made it through two rounds of qualifying to reach this stage, winning both previous ties by a single goal. Taking on the relative might of Red Bull however should highlight the gulf in technical ability between the two teams.
And it is the Austrians who come into the clash as the clear favourites. Again, first simply considering the odds on progress to the group stages of the Champions League, Red Bull are at just 1.030 while Shkendija find themselves at the high price of 15.00.
And in this specific first leg tie the odds are even more in favour of the Austrians. Red Bull are at just 1.11 to take an advantage into the return encounter, with their visitors all the way out at 21.00 to record a shock victory – a 4-0 thrashing in favour of Red Bull is at 7.00, meaning that a US$5 bid would lead to a US$35 pay out.
The third and final match of the evening sees Greek runners up PAOK Salonika host Russian league runners up Spartak Moscow. While PAOK are yet to play a domestic competitive fixture since mid May – close to three months ago – they looked in excellent nick as they breezed past FC Basel 5-1 on aggregate in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.
Spartak, by way of comparison, have played their opening two league games of the new campaign, have collected four points and are yet to concede a goal. They will likely come to Greece and try to contain the game and we could see a low scoring affair – under 2.5 goals in this game is priced at just 1.60, with over 2.5 goals at the higher 2.30.
But it is PAOK who come into this first leg clash as the favourites to progress. You could more than double your money by backing the Greeks to take an advantage into the return encounter at 2.15, with Spartak further out at 3.60 to collect a victory on the road – a narrow, 1-0 win for PAOK is priced competitively at 6.50.
UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying round (leg 1 of 2):
(1.11) Red Bull Salzburg x Shkendija Tetovo (21.00); draw (8.50)
(2.15) PAOK x Spartak Moscow (3.60); draw (3.10)
(1.72) Celtic x AEK (5.25); draw (3.40)