Celtic continue Champions League adventure, Balotelli on target
A look at the best bets ahead of Champions League qualifying this week ...
Celtic's tough test
Celtic continue their Champions League qualifying campaign when they face Rosenborg in a third round first leg clash at Celtic Park on Wednesday. The Hoops eased past Linfield in the last round but should find the Norwegian champions a much tougher nut to crack.
The Trondheim outfit needed extra time to get past Irish side Dundalk in the second round and in truth didn't look great over two legs, but will surely rise to the occasion against the Glasgow giants.
Once a mainstay of the Champions League (they reached the group stages on eight consecutive occasions between 1995 and 2003 under the guidance of legendary coach Nils Arne Eggen), Rosenborg have struggled in Europe in recent seasons. However, they are five points clear at the top of the Norwegian league after 17 games and could give Celtic a real argument.
The Hoops are big favourites with the bookmakers but this game could be tighter than the odds suggest and for that reason it could pay to punt the draw at 7/2 with bet365.
Nice and Balotelli face Ajax
Elsewhere, Nice's Champions League clash with Ajax should prove fascinating. The Ligue 1 outfit will face Marcel Keizer's young side over two legs in arguably the most high profile match up of the qualification phase to date. Ajax have a fabulous history and are four-time European champions. They reached the final of the Europa League last season before losing to Manchester United but Keizer has inherited a vibrant young side from Peter Bosz.
Nice's rise has been remarkable. In 2014 they only avoided relegation from the French top flight on the final day of the season. Fast forward less than three years and they are in with a shout of qualifying for the Champions League proper for the first time in 57 years.
Dante, Mario Balotelli and Jean Michael Seri helped them light up Ligue 1 last season, with Balotelli's 15 league goals helping them secure a third place finish and a chance to qualify for Europe's main event. Wednesday's clash at the Allianz Riviera should be a cracker, and at the prices Ajax look a spot of value at 11/5 with bet365.
Kasper Dolberg was named Eredivisie Young Talent of the Year last season and the Danish forward is blessed with fantastic ability. At the back, Davinson Sanchez was brilliant for much of the campaign, drawing comparisons with legendary Dutch defender Jaap Stam in some quarters and this is a young side who are only going to get better if Keizer can keep the squad together.
Both teams like to have a go and it's difficult to see how this match ends 0-0 with the likes of Balotelli and Dolberg involved. The latter may have fluffed his lines in the Europa League final but he looks a genuine class act and an excellent finisher. Both teams to score is a 5/6 shout with bet365 and that looks a cracking price in the south of France.