Preview: Celtic vs. Real Betis

Preview: Celtic vs. Real Betis

Scottish Premiership giants Celtic will host Real Betis for their final Group G encounter in the Europa League on Thursday night.

The visitors have already booked their place in the last 32, while Ange Postecoglou’s men will finish third in the group, meaning they will drop down into the inaugural Europa Conference League.

Celtic extended their unbeaten league run to 10 matches when they claimed a comfortable 3-0 victory away against Dundee United last weekend.

Tom Rogic and David Turnbull found the net in the first half before substitute Liam Scales marked his Premiership debut with a goal in the 81st minute to seal all three points for the Hoops.

Postecoglou’s side remain four points behind rivals Rangers at the summit, and they will be looking to keep their impressive domestic run going if they are to close the gap at the top.

Celtic now turn their attention to their final Europa League game in Group H against Real Betis with nothing but pride riding on this fixture for both sides.

Since securing a famous 2-1 triumph in the Champions League against Barcelona in 2012, the Hoops have lost each of their last seven games against Spanish opposition in Europe, including September’s 4-3 defeat against Betis.

Celtic’s 2-0 win against Ferencvaros in their most recent Europa League game ended a run of seven home matches without a clean sheet in the competition. The last time they kept consecutive shutouts in Europe was back in 2006-07 when they recorded four successive clean sheets in the Champions League.

Real Betis secured their fifth successive win across all competitions when they caused a major upset at Camp Nou by beating Barcelona 1-0 last weekend.

The game was goalless until the 79th minute when Juanmi placed his effort past Marc-Andre ter Stegen from inside the penalty area to seal all three points for Manuel Pellegrini’s men.

Los Verdiblancos have now climbed up to third in the La Liga standings, seven points clear of the Catalan giants and one point above Real Sociedad, who they will face in the league on Sunday.

With one group game to spare, Betis have qualified for the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign. 10 points accumulated from their five matches sees them sitting second in Group G, but after claiming only one point from their two fixtures against Bayer Leverkusen, they cannot finish above the Germans at the summit.

Before this season, Betis had only ever lost one of their previous 12 group-stage matches in the Europa League and they had never conceded more than once in a single group-stage game, keeping eight clean sheets in the process.

However, they have conceded nine goals from their five matches in this year’s competition, including three in their 4-3 win against Celtic and four in their heavy 4-0 loss away against Leverkusen last month.

Betis will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats on the road in European competition for the first time since 1998 when they travel to Glasgow on Thursday, with Pellegrini hoping his side can end their group-stage campaign on a high.

Celtic Europa League form:
Celtic form (all competitions):
Real Betis Europa League form:
Real Betis form (all competitions):

We say: Celtic 1-2 Real Betis
An entertaining encounter with plenty of goalmouth action could be on the cards once again, with both Celtic and Real Betis knowing that the pressure is off as their fate in the Europa League has already been confirmed.

Both sides are expected to rotate their starting lineups, but we feel that the visitors may just edge this contest and claim their sixth successive win across all competitions.

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