Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
After a surprisingly solid win away from home last week, Celtic should have a relatively simple task on their hands this evening. The Bosnian champions FK Sarajevo come to Glasgow needing to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit, and aware that Celtic have a handy away-goals advantage into the bargain. The Hoops, whose summer recruitment drive has somewhat stalled recently, will hope to progress comfortably tonight before adding at least one right-back to an unbalanced squad.
It wouldn’t be Celtic if they made things completely simple, of course. Their commanding victory in Bosnia came after falling 1-0 behind, and there’s every chance that they’ll experience some twists and turns before this evening is out. With an eminently winnable tie against Estonian champions Nomme Kalju ahead next week for the winners here, it’s essential that Celtic don’t take their eye off the ball in front of a home crowd that will expect them to be ruthless in finishing off the opponent in front of them.
Celtic vs FK Sarajevo Prediction: Celtic 3-1 FK Sarajevo
Celtic’s current first-choice XI is one that gets better the further forward you go – Odsonne Edouard is a striker who wouldn’t be out of place in a top European league, but their back four will be hastily cobbled together from whoever is available – which means as many as three of those four will be playing out of position. That’s far from ideal, but much the same defence got them through a tricky first leg, and with the security of three away goals and a 3-1 lead Neil Lennon’s men should have enough of a head start to close out the tie with a bit to spare.
Our recommended tip: Celtic win and BTTS
The Hoops come into this game still somewhat weakened by injuries, with first-leg scorer Mikey Johnston ruled out by a thigh strain and fellow attacking midfielders Tom Rogic and Maryan Shved also missing. Nonetheless, with James Forrest, Edouard and Scott Sinclair available, Celtic have plenty of goals within the side and should be able to swat aside the opposition with relative comfort. With that said, Betway’s 2/1 odds on a home win with both teams scoring does look tempting because it’s always hard to trust that Celtic backline over a 90-minute period.
Last week’s face-off in the humidity of Sarajevo was the first ever meeting between these sides, and Celtic’s shakiness on the road was in evidence again as they fell behind on the half-hour to Mirko Oremus’ tap-in at a corner. Within five minutes, though, the Bhoys were back on terms through a 25-yard pelter from Johnston. The second half saw Lennon’s charges pull away and all but put the tin lid on the tie, with Edouard finishing neatly on 51 minutes to put them ahead, and Sinclair applying a layer of gloss five minutes from the end, tapping in Lewis Morgan’s cross.
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Players to watch: Kristoffer Ajer & Haris Handzic
Signed from IK Start as a cultured central midfielder, Ajer was converted into a centre-back by Celtic and played that position when the club loaned him out to Kilmarnock. His versatility will be called upon this evening as, with Mikael Lustig having left the club and no replacement having been signed, Ajer will be pressed into service on the right of the home back four. An unfussy, enthusiastic defender, the Norwegian looks very much like a future captain of the Hoops, and his positive demeanour has made him a fans’ favourite at the age of just 21.
Handzic is a hugely well-travelled footballer, and has had spells outside of his native Bosnia in Switzerland, Hungary, Poland and Croatia. His absence last week may well have hurt Sarajevo, as his experience makes him their most relied-upon striker, and his return to the side will give the travelling Giants fans some measure of hope that they can test their opposition tonight. Capped twice by the national side, Handzic is also one of the few internationals in the squad, and he may fancy his chances against the patchwork Hoops defence.