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Preview: Real Betis vs. Celtic - prediction, team news, lineups
16/09/2021 14:24:05

Scottish giants Celtic travel to Spanish outfit Real Betis for their opening Group G clash in the Europa League on Thursday night (5:45PM, 16 Sept).

This will be the first ever European meeting between the two sides and the La Liga club's first ever game against a Scottish opponent.

Match preview

Real Betis claimed their first victory of the new La Liga campaign when they won 2-1 away at Granada on Monday night.

A 66th-minute strike from Colombian forward Luis Suarez cancelled out Rodri Sanchez's first-half opener, but a brilliant solo goal in the 89th minute from substitute Sergio Canales ensured that the visitors went home with all three points.

Manuel Pellegrini's men are now preparing for their first European campaign since 2018-19, after an impressive sixth-place finish in the Spanish top flight last season.

Betis have only ever lost one of their previous 12 group-stage games in the Europa League and they have never conceded more than once in a single group-stage match, keeping eight clean sheets in the process.

Joined in Group G by Bayer Leverkusen and Ferencvaros, Los Verdiblancos will fancy their chances of reaching the knockout rounds and will be hoping to kickstart their campaign with a victory in front of their home supporters.

After two successive defeats against AZ Alkmaar and Old Firm rivals Rangers, Celtic bounced back to claim a comfortable 3-0 win at home against Ross County in the Scottish Premiership last weekend.

Summer signing Cameron Carter-Vickers found the net on his debut to break the deadlock just after the hour mark, before Albian Ajeti scored a brace on his first start of the new season to seal their third league win.

The Hoops have endured a mixed start to the new campaign, though there have been clear signs of improvement in the last month under head coach Ange Postecoglou, who will become the first Australian to manage in the Europa League.

Further improvements are now required in Europe, following a dismal Europa League campaign last season when they finished bottom of their group with four defeats from their six matches, conceding 19 goals in the process.

Celtic travel to Seville on Thursday having never won an away match against Spanish opponents in 18 attempts against seven different teams. They have also lost each of their last six competitive games against La Liga sides by a staggering aggregate score of 19-1.

If the Hoops are to advance from their group – something they have achieved in three of the last four seasons – then they should be looking to target their encounters against Betis to get points on the board.

Team News

Real Betis winger Diego Lainez remains on the sidelines with an ankle injury, while defender Youssouf Sabaly is also ruled out with a muscle problem.

Hector Bellerin, who has joined the club on loan from Arsenal, made his debut for his boyhood club last weekend and the Spanish right-back is expected to start again in midweek ahead of Martin Montoya.

After scoring last weekend, Canales could return to the first XI in a deep-lying midfield role at the expense of Guido Rodriguez, while Nabil Fekir is set to start in the number 10 position in behind lone striker Borja Iglesias.

Forty-year-old winger Joaquin, who made his senior debut for Betis over 20 years ago, has featured in all four games as a substitute so far this season and he is expected to begin on the bench once again on Thursday.

As for Celtic, they were dealt a major blow last weekend as summer signing Kyogo Furuhashi has been ruled out for up to a month with a knee injury sustained while representing Japan on international duty.

Callum McGregor (knock), Greg Taylor (shoulder), Liel Abada (religious reasons), James Forrest (knock), Mikey Johnston (hamstring), Karamoko Dembele (ankle) and Christopher Jullien (knee) are also ruled out of Thursday's game.

Celtic have been handed a boost this week, however, as right-back Anthony Ralston will be available for selection following a spell in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.

Carter-Vickers is set to keep his place at centre-back ahead of Stephen Welsh, while fellow summer recruit Georgios Giakoumakis could be handed his debut in attack alongside Jota and Ajeti.

Real Betis possible starting lineup:

Silva; Bellerin, Bartra, Ruiz, Moreno; Rodriguez, Canales; Rodri, Fekir, Tello; Iglesias

Celtic possible starting lineup:

Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Montgomery; Turnbull, Soro, Rogic; Jota, Ajeti, Giakoumakis

We say: Real Betis 2-1 Celtic

Celtic have scored in each of their last 14 Europa League matches, while Betis have conceded in eight of their last nine league games, including results from last season.

The Hoops will fancy their chances on Thursday night, although they will come up against a well-drilled Betis outfit who will also be confident of claiming all three points.

Goals are to be expected at the Estadio Benito Villamarin and we can see the hosts securing a slender victory on home soil.

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