Wolves have found the going very easy in Europe so far, beating Armenian outfit Pyunik 8-0 on aggregate in the third round after they had comfortably beaten Crusaders 6-1 in the round previous. It’s fair to say that the English side have yet to come up against any sort of formidable opposition and they will be truly tested for the first time in Turin on Thursday night.
Like their English counterparts, Torino have breezed into the play-off round of the Europa League, winning 6-1 and 7-1 on aggregate in their last two rounds. With no league games under their belts, the Italians are also far more rested than a Wolves side who have already grown accustomed to playing on a Thursday and then playing again on a Sunday or Monday.
Wolves have already had two tough league games against Leicester and Man Utd and they will more than likely set up similarly on Thursday night, regularly conceding possession and looking to choose their moments.
Wolves recorded 30% possession Leicester and 34% against United in two hard-fought draws, but may come unstuck if they concede a similar amount of possession again in Turin.
In a warm climate, just three days after a high-intensity league match, conceding possession and chasing the ball is risky and Wolves could tire.
Pick: Torino to win @ 6/5
Celtic losing at home to Cluj is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. What good is winning the Scottish league eight times in-a-row if you can’t even make the playoffs of the Champions League?
Celtic have now failed to make the group stages of Europe’s elite competition for two successive years and simply have to progress to the Europa League to save face.
They simply need to win the home leg if they are to have any chance of progressing into the Europa League proper and they will probably have to win by more than one to give themselves some breathing room.
It’s all well and good dishing out hammerings against Motherwell and St Johnstone but Celtic need to put together a dominant performance in Europe if they are to avoid fading into obscurity.
They should have too much for an AIK side that has so far stuttered through each and every round of European competition they have played in.
Pick: Celtic to win (-1) @ 7/5
Rangers fans have been quite vocal over the summer about a shift in power in Glasgow, but it remains to be seen if there is any substance to those claims.
One thing is certain; Rangers have coasted through Europa League qualifying so far and have laid waste to everyone they’ve come across.
Their 7-2 aggregate victory over FC Midtjylland was particularly eye-catching and they now stand an excellent chance of qualifying for the main competition.
In their way stand Polish side Legia Warsaw, who are yet to concede a goal in six qualifying games to date, although the quality of opposition has to be called into question.
Their miserly approach to the qualifiers has been at complete odds with Rangers’. The Scottish side have scored 19 goals in six games and scored moreover two legs against Midtjylland than Legia have managed across six games.
Thursday’s match is the definition of a clash of styles and a confident Rangers side should have too much for the Polish outfit, who currently sit eighth in the league after five games.
Pick: Rangers to win @ 5/4