Celtic begin a challenging UEFA Europa League campaign with a game to Real Betis on Thursday evening. The group stage draw placed the Bhoys in a competitive UEL bracket also featuring Bayer Leverkusen and Ferencvaros. While Celtic have enjoyed big wins in this competition in recent seasons, a trip to the Estadio Benito Villamarín will test them. They face a Betis side managed by former Man City and Real Madrid boss Manuel Pellegrini, who guided them to a sixth-place finish in La Liga last season. Betis have gotten off to a slower start this time around, winning only one of their opening four league matches. However, the first win was perfectly timed from a UEL perspective, coming on the Monday night before their opening European fixture. Sergio Canales scored a wonderful solo goal in that 2-1 at Granada. The midfield maestro is one of many gifted players in a squad that also includes Nabil Fekir and William Carvalho. This array of midfield gems has propelled Betis into the top five charts of passing and possession stats in the Spanish top tier. We expect them to dominate the ball against their Scottish opponents.
Celtic beat AZ Alkmaar on aggregate to reach this stage of the competition but lost the second leg, which was away from home. It was typical of a team that often struggles on the road, losing four of their previous five away games before this encounter. Celtic have played 16 times away to Spanish opposition and never won, losing on 13 occasions. We don't see them breaking their duck against a Betis side that only lost four of their 19 La Liga home games last season. Back a home win.