The Celtic Europa League Group B Preview

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    The Celtic Europa League Group B Preview

    Last season saw Celtic fans jubilantly make it to the Champions League group stage, only to not really show up in almost every single game. Up against Paris Saint-Germain Bayern Munich, and Anderlecht, Celtic could only muster one win and five defeats. Finishing third, Celtic dropped into the Europa League knockout phase and lost 3-0 following a 1-0 win at home.

    This season, Celtic came close to making it to the Champions League again. They overcame Armenian outfit Alashkert to the tune of 3-0 twice in the middle of July. Then came a team who Celtic will become reacquainted with very soon. At the end of July and start of August, Celtic faced Rosenborg, claiming a win at home and a draw away. Unfortunately, a 1-1 draw and then losing 2-1 in Greece saw AEK Athens claim a place in the Champions League over Celtic. However, this has left Celtic in what can be seen as quite a favourable group in the Europa League.

    Focus split for Celtic

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    IMAGE SOURCE: Read Celtic, via Twitter

    Usually, Celtic would be able to focus much more on the European competition at hand than they can right now, but there appear to be some upstarts in the Scottish Premier League. Celtic have recorded their first loss of the season to Heart of Midlothian, who were perfect through the first four games, meaning that the ever-dominant Bhoys need to reassert themselves as the much-feared team that the league is used to seeing.

    Regardless of current standing, Celtic are still the overwhelming favourites to win the league, even though they opted to sell one of their star players, Moussa Dembele, at the transfer deadline for £18 million to Olympique Lyonnais. With the likes of Odsonne Edouard, Emilio Izaguirre, and Youssouf Mulumbu joining permanently in the summer, Celtic still have a very strong squad. The sale of Dembele, as well as the new additions, are why Celtic are at 100/30 with Betway, as of 9th September, to win Group B of the Europa League.

    The Bhoys come in behind the favoured German team RB Leipzig, on level pegging with RB Salzburg, and way ahead of the team they overcame during Champions League qualification – Rosenborg. The squad looks to be working well this season, bar the slip up against Heart of Midlothian, and should cause their fair share of problems for all of their opponents, especially at Celtic Park.

    Group B looking rather favourable

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    IMAGE SOURCE: Fussball Transfers, via Twitter

    One of the revelations of this Europa League competition is the fact that RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg can compete in the competition. Both owned by Red Bull, the teams had to prove their lack of association, according to the Independent, to be granted places in this year’s competition. The upstart East Germany team and Austrian champions were granted permission to enter the competition and happened to be drawn in the same group. The two Red Bull teams are set to be Celtic’s biggest competition in Group B.

    In 2016/17, RB Leipzig surged to second in the Bundesliga, giving Bayern Munich a real scare for much of the season. Last season, the team promoted in 2016 finished sixth to earn their Europa League place. Finishing with a win and a draw in each of their qualifying games, the German team put in accomplished performances to secure their place in the group stages. Leipzig are a well-balanced team, with Emil Forsberg acting as the primary playmaker and Timo Werner being the recognised threat in the box. This season, however, 21-year-old Jean-Kevin Augustin has been playing alongside Werner or Yussuf Poulsen and has already tallied five goals and two assists in eight games.

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    IMAGE SOURCE: UEFA Europa League, via Twitter

    Red Bull Salzburg dropped out of their Champions League qualifier to Red Star Belgrade, as reported by the BBC, but amassed a fine reputation for themselves last season. With three wins and three draws, Salzburg topped Marseille, Konyaspor, and Vitoria de Guimaraes to top the group. In the knockout phase, the Austrian team beat Real Sociedad, Borussia Dortmund and Lazio, and eventually fell 3-2 on aggregate to Marseille in the semi-finals. Israeli striker Munas Dabbur is their primary goal threat, with nine goals and two assists in 11 games already this season – four of which came in four games of Champions League qualifying.

    Rosenborg aren’t expected to be much of a hindrance to any team in Group B. Celtic faced them in the second round of Champions League qualification and came away with a convincing 3-1 win at Celtic Park. At Lerkendal Stadion, the Bhoys endured a lot of strong attacks from Rosenborg, but came out in the second half more willing to play, ending the game 0-0. The Norwegian champions dominated their league in 2017, and are leading the Eliteserien after 21 games this year, but they look to be the fourth-best in Group B.

    Celtic drew a group which they can certainly qualify from, but they’ll need to go all-out against the Red Bull clubs to steal the necessary points. The Bhoys will also need to make sure that they take six points from Rosenborg, as Leipzig and Salzburg shall be looking to do so too.