Europa League: Giovanni van Bronckhorst to enjoy a winning return to Ibrox

Europa League: Giovanni van Bronckhorst to enjoy a winning return to Ibrox

Round five of the Europa League group stages sees Celtic and Rangers in action, with both halves of the Old Firm still in the hunt for a place in the competition’s knockout stages. Celtic travel to Germany where they’ll face Bayer Leverkusen before Rangers welcome Sparta Prague to Govan.

Celtic and Rangers both start the round sitting third in their groups and within touching distance of second. The Celts could move to within a point of the leaders with an away win, but to achieve that, they must defeat a Bayer side that is unbeaten so far and favourites to progress as winners of the pool.

Rangers are 90 minutes away from the next round, knowing a home win over Prague by two or more goals would secure second place behind Lyon.

Bayer Leverkusen v Celtic
Thursday, 17:45
Live on BT Sport

German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen head into the penultimate round of matches from Group G on top of the pool. They bring three wins and one draw from their previous outings, scoring nine goals and conceding just two. The 10 points claimed means they are already three better off than nearest rivals Celta Vigo and four above Celtic, a team they beat 4-0 at Parkhead in September.

The Germans were ruthless in Glasgow and are expected to pick up where they left off now they enjoy the home advantage. Three points would send Leverkusen through with a game to spare, and they set up with confidence, having beaten Real Betis 4-0 in their last Europa League match.

The locals have played three games already this month and remain unbeaten, adding a 1-1 draw at Hertha Berlin with a 1-0 home victory over Bochum on Saturday in the Bundesliga. Another win for Bayer Leverkusen is 1.511/2 on the Betfair Exchange.

Celts face a tough night

Celtic lost each of their first two group games but claimed six points from the last six available to them and travel to Germany with confidence. Ange Postecoglou’s side had no trouble beating bottom club Ferencvarosi home and away, including a 3-2 away win in their most recent European match. In those two meetings, Celtic scored five and conceded two.

The Hoops have continued their scoring ways in their two outings since beating the Hungarians. They beat Dundee 4-2 away from home and edged Scottish League Cup holders, St Johnstone, 1-0 at Hampden on Saturday.

James Forrest scored the winning goal at the national stadium, staking his claim for a start in Germany where Celtic are 6.411/2 for the win. A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for either side, and a share of the spoils is 4.94/1.

Rangers v Sparta Prague
Thursday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

It’s a huge night at Ibrox as fans pack the stadium to welcome returning Giovanni van Bronckhorst as the club’s new manager. The former Rangers, Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder took over following the departure of Steven Gerrard, who moved to Aston Villa.

Gio watched on as a spectator as his new recruits exited the League Cup on Sunday at Hampden and will demand much better here. This is his first match in the dugout, and he has a chance to start with a win.

Beating Sparta Prague by two or more goals would be enough to secure the runners-up finish behind runaway leaders Lyon. The team have played four, lost two, drawn one and won one game already, but the spare victory did come at this venue over Brondby.

A full house, special atmosphere and the buzz of a new manager should be enough to see Rangers get the win they crave. Backers can support Rangers at 1.824/5.

Prague has lost their last two

Sparta Prague won the reverse of this fixture 1-0 back in September thanks to a goal from David Hancko on 29 minutes. Rangers battled to get back into the game but had Glen Kamara sent off on 74 minutes, and that seemed to crush any remaining chances the Gers had of an away win. As the scoreline suggests, it was a close match, but Iron Sparta were worth the points.

Since that narrow win over Rangers in Prague, Sparta lost each of their next two matches. They were beaten home and away in a double header with group winners Lyon, conceding seven goals in the process.

They now face a tough trip to Glasgow with their confidence shaken and the away win written of at 4.94/1. The draw can be backed at 3.7511/4.