The 23rd and 24th August will see the final battles for a place in the Champions League take place. As ever, the bookies are piling on the odds and offers ahead of the kickoff. For British football fans, the playoff round will be a chance to see Man City and Celtic try to bolster their seasons and earn a place in Europe's most prestigious tournament.
For the latter, a 4-2 win over St Johnstone at the weekend should serve as a timely confidence boost heading into the club's 23rd August game against Hapoel Beer Sheva. Celtic managed a five-goal surge against Sheva last time out, but that doesn't seem to be enough to inspire many of the oddsmakers out there.
Although the Scottish club is enjoying a positive start to the season, NetBet's topnotch bookmaker currently has Celtic at 9/5 for the win. In comparison, Sheva will start the match as the 7/5 favourites, which could be due, in part, to the side's home advantage.
After sneaking two goals in the first match at Celtic, Sheva will be confident of more at home; especially since Celtic have shown a propensity to leak goals when they're on the offensive. Indeed, while Celtic have managed nine goals in two matches, they've also conceded four, which suggests they could be vulnerable at the back.
This apparent weakness will be compounded by the fact Celtic will be away from home for what will be seen as a must-win game. However, despite certain things being against Celtic, it's worth noting that they did win the first leg and, when all is said and done, it was a convincing victory.
In fact, if goals are enough to sway you, then odds like 9/5 at NetBet, 19/5 at William Hill and 17/10 at Coral should make for pleasant reading. Indeed, any time a team with the momentum has the longest odds, the canny sports bettor should see it as a chance to extract some value from the market.
In the UK's other crunch match, Man City will be taking on Steaua Bucharest in what seems to be all but a formality. The 2013/2014 Premier League champions ran out 5-0 winners in the first leg and there's every chance they could do the same on 24th August.
A strong performance away at Stoke on 20th August showed that Pep Guardiola's men are more than capable of scoring goals this season, but even if they can't, a place in the Champions League is virtually assured.
Bucharest offered nothing of note in the first leg and if Aguero and Nolito can find their form again, it should be a comfortable night for the home side. Unsurprisingly, the odds at NetBet are testament to City's first leg performance and the best price currently offered online is 2/15.
Of course, if you're looking for some value, then Bucharest's odds are the longest you'll find in the Champions League this week. With the side's odds floating between 16/1 and 18/1, a £10 stake and a little help from the football gods could earn you a nice little return if Bucharest can manage an upset.
Another tie that appears to offer slightly more value than Bucharest (which is certainly a long shot) is Roma vs. Porto. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw and, heading into the second match, the odds seem to favour Roma. Being the home side this time around, Roma will run out as the 8/11 favourites while Porto will start as the 4/1 underdogs.
However, with a recent win over Estoril Praia and a strong performance in the first leg, Porto are far from being dead in the water. Indeed, when we take a look at the odds in context, 4/1 could be the value bet of the round.
In fact, if you were to take this potential value and place a £10 treble on Man City, Celtic and Porto at NetBet, you'd be on for a win worth £164.50. The combination of Man City's strong position and the value offered by Celtic and Porto help to make this an attractive treble, which, if nothing else, will add some extra spice to the latest round of Champions League action.
Europe's leading cup competition looks set to be another barnstormer this season and, if Man City and Celtic can make it through the final qualifying round, then the UK will have two more reasons to tune in. To check out the all the latest Champions Leagues odds, visit NetBet today!
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