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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Celtic's defence is likely to be tested by AEK Athens

Bhoys could have a tough first leg

Celtic's Olivier Ntcham scores against Rosenborg
1 of 1

Third qualifying round first legs
From 6pm Wednesday

Celtic have scored three goals in four of their five matches this season and they would love to notch another treble at least to avoid any anxiety in the return leg of this Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens (7.45pm).

That might be beyond them against the newly-crowned Greek champions, who represent a step up in class from Alashkert or Rosenborg, Celtic’s victims so far in this competition.

AEK, reborn after hitting hard times, won the Greek league in May for the first time in 24 years and won’t want their return to the Champions League to be a brief experience.

Celtic are odds-on to see off the Greeks at Parkhead, where Brendan Rodgers’ men have lost just once since before Christmas.

A better bet might be both teams to score at 6-5.

AEK boss Marinos Ouzonidis has made it clear he wants to take an away goal back to Athens and while talk is cheap, Celtic’s defence is looks far from unbreachable.

They are, however, rusty – they’ve not played a competitive game since May’s Greek Cup final – and didn’t look secure at the back in last week’s 3-2 friendly win against Galatasaray.

They’ve undergone a summer restock with Serie A peripherals Ezequiel Ponce and Lucas Boye added to bolster the attack though they will definitely miss the presence of Bosnian strongman Ognjen Vranjes at the back.

Also making their bow are RB Salzburg, who are 1-8 shots against Macedonian lightweights Shkendija, and Spartak Moscow, who are in Greece to take on PAOK.

Spartak were group rivals of Liverpool last season but they’ll be pushed by a PAOK outfit who flattened Basel 5-1 in the last round.

Both teams to score in Celtic v AEK Athens
1pt 6-5 general

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Celtic are odds-on to see off the Greeks at Parkhead, where Brendan Rodgers’ men have lost just once since before Christmas
E.W. Terms
Sky bet