Celtic will visit the Stadionul Dr. Constantin Radulescu on Wednesday where they’ll face off with CFR Cluj for their first leg of the third round of 2019/20 Champions League qualifiers. The two have met once before in a friendly back in 2013, and on that occasion it was Cluj who ran out 2-1 winners. Celtic will be looking to avoid a repeat of that result and build on their massive opening day victory of the Scottish Premiership last weekend.
Cluj started their Champions League campaign at the beginning of July when they were matched up against FC Astana, in which they were on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline in the first leg. The reverse fixture saw Cluj earn a solid 3-1 victory and eliminate their opponents from the tournament at the first hurdle though, and it was only up from there. Another win, this time at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv by one goal to nil, was followed by a 2-2 stalemate at the Winner Stadium. Despite drawing on the night Cluj actually went through on aggregate, as goals from Juan Emmanuel Culio and Mario Rondon ensured they weren’t at risk of leaving the competition earlier than they’d like.
Celtic also began their Champions League journey early in the summer, opening their account with a 1-3 win away to FK Sarajevo thanks to goals from Johnston, Edouard and Scott Sinclair after the opponents took the lead earlier in the tie. The home leg of that affair ended 2-1 to Neil Lennon’s men, and the subsequent second round match versus Nomme JK Kalju went their way too, with four different goalscorers and five goals in total with none conceded more or less ending the tie after just ninety minutes. Upon the second leg, Celtic avoided conceding a goal yet again, this time winning by only two goals.
Cluj will have a full squad available on Wednesday which is a major boost for manager Dan Petrescu. We can see them lining up in a 4-3-3, with Giedrius Arlauskis starting as number one behind a back line of Camora, Andrei Burca, Paulo Vinicius and Mateo Susic. In midfield onlookers should expect Damjan Djokovic alongside Juan Emmanuel and Mihai Bordeianu, with those three supporting attackers Mario Rondon, Billel Omrani as well as Ciprian Ioan Deac.
Neil Lennon has plenty of injury concerns to worry about going into this one as Daniel Arzani, Jack Hendry, Kouassi Eboue, Kieran Tierney, Tomas Rogic and Vakoun Issouf Bayo are all uncertain to feature in the near future. Scott Bain is expected to keep his spot in goal with a back four of Vasskback Ajer, Nir Bitton, Simunovic and Bolingoli-Mbombo. Scott Brown should partner fellow midfielder Callum McGregor in the centre of the park, while James Forrest who got two assists at the weekend will get the nod beside Ryan Christie and Michael Johnston. Odsonne Edouard will start as a lone striker.
Having kept a clean sheet in each of their last three matches and scoring fourteen in those games combined, it’s fair to say Celtic are in great form at the moment. It’s difficult to see them slowing down anytime soon either, and due to this we’re going for Celtic to win by two clear goals @ 7.50. Over 2.5 goals comes in @ 2.40 and with the way Celtic are playing right now, we wouldn’t be shocked to see them net more than two themselves. CFR Cluj will have the crowd right behind them from the first whistle however so it certainly won’t be a walk in the park for the visiting team, so BTTS @ 2.10 looks a good bet for our final tip.