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Cross Game Multi Tips: Jack Lambden's three to follow on Thursday

Celtic's Ryan Christie is averaging three fouls per game in the Europa League this season and features in Jack's 4/1 selection for Thursday
Celtic's Ryan Christie is averaging three fouls per game in the Europa League this season and features in Jack's 4/1 selection for Thursday

The Europa League group stages reach matchday four on Thursday, crunch time for many teams with their chances of qualification resting on results in this next round of fixtures. Jack Lambden has analysed the betting markets to try and pick out some value from the markets for today's football tips. 

James Maddison 1+ shot on target - 2.5pts @ 5/4 Betfair

Ryan Christie to be carded - 2.5pts @ 4/1 bet365

Diogo Goncalves to be carded - 2pts @ 11/2

Leicester travel to northern Portugal to face Europa League mainstays Braga in the knowledge that a win will seal an early qualification to the knockout stages of the competition.

Three wins in three matches to date marks a perfect return to date for Brendan Rodgers’ men who, despite the rotation in the team, have dispatched their opponents with relative ease, looking very comfortably especially against an out-of-sorts Braga on matchday 3.

Braga are however a danger in their own back yard and this is a massive game in the group for them so it would be unwise to underestimate a squad of players with undoubted talent that currently sit above both giants of the Portuguese game Porto and Benfica in the domestic table. Leicester are around 23/20 which perhaps reflects that Rodgers should go relatively strong here on the line-up front with the Blues not playing again until Monday night.

One man that catches the eye on the props front is Leicester’s James Maddison. The England international has been plighted with injuries in the last year which means his involvement has been more limited than the Foxes would have liked but the playmaker is now building his minutes to become more of a regular in the starting eleven again.

Maddison has always had an eye for goal, as his 9 goal return from last season shows and in this type of fixture, I would expect the number 10 to be deployed just behind striker Kelechi Iheanacho to provide the Nigerian with some quality service in behind the Braga defence.

Maddison is known for his creative talents but I fancy him to test the Braga goalkeeper at least once here. In the reverse game, ‘Madders’, as he’s known by his teammates, recorded 2 shots on target and also landed this bet in Leicester’s first match in the group against Zorya, scoring on that occasion to double his tally.

Leicester sit 7th out of the 42 group stage teams for shots on target per game in this season’s Europa League and if Maddison gets an opportunity in-and-around the box, he usually pulls the trigger. I’d have this priced at closer to evens so we’re getting some value at the 5/4 price available.

Celtic’s woes continues this past weekend as they laboured to a 2-2 draw with Hibernian, rescuing a point with a stoppage time equaliser after falling 2-0 behind.

The Hoops now find themselves 11 points behind Glasgow rivals Rangers, albeit with two games in hand, and Neil Lennon cannot even rely on the team’s form in Europe to detract the critics from his door.

The 4-1 defeat on matchday 3 to Thursday’s opponents Sparta Prague was an embarrassing display lacking fight above all else. It goes without saying that the absence of fans on big European nights at Celtic Park is always going to be a leveller, but the Celts completely folded defensively against a team missing several key players and Lennon could quite rightly not defend the performance.

With just one point from three games, Celtic would need to pull off something akin to their heroics in Europe from years gone by to rescue their prospects of qualification from the fire, starting in Prague on Thursday night. The 19/10 odds on Celtic to win reflects their troubles and Sparta will look to capitalise to try and close the gap to AC Milan in second place.

Someone that can come out of Celtic’s poor campaign to date with some credit is Ryan Christie. The Scot has impressed both domestically and on the European front in a variety of positions and he will be a key man for the Greens on Thursday night.

Christie’s goals and assists are the standout statistics in his 2020/21 season but the 25 year-old has certainly not shied away from getting stuck in, perhaps from frustration at his the poor form of the team as a collective.

In the Europa League especially, Christie is averaging 3 fouls per game despite only starting in twice of the three group stage matches played so far which is a very high number for someone that plays in the three behind the striker more often than not. The attacking midfielder was booked after coming off the bench against Milan but also in the 4-1 humiliation to the Czechs last time out, so don’t be surprised to see his name taken by the referee again here.

Christie has spoken in the build up to this game of Celtic’s ‘personal vendetta’ against Sparta and the need to avenge such a poor showing in the reverse and those comments give encouragement that the playmaker will be leading from the front in that regard. A few fouls may follow as a result and I’m happy to get behind the 4/1 quotes with bet365 on Christie to be booked, especially when looking back at his disciplinary record from last season in Europe – 3 yellows in 6 group stage games. 

Europa League Betting

Rangers, unlike their Old Firm rivals, head into this game with the luxury of knowing that a win – far from an easy task – will seal their route to the Last 32.

Steven Gerrard was ruing his side’s inability to hold onto a 3-1 lead against Thursday’s opponents out in Lisbon a few weeks ago after the hosts went down to 10 men early in the contest. Benfica scored with their only two shots on target to salvage a point they didn’t really deserve but it put the big spenders on a par points wise with the Gers with two matches to go.

The Red, White and Blue have been free flowing this season, scoring 41 goals in the league in just 15 matches but it is the team’s defensive record in the league that Gerrard will be keen to mirror here against a side possessing plenty of threats but whom do not appear to have found the right balance or combination yet.

I’m expecting a few cards given the referee in charge – Radu Petrescu – and that this a huge game in the group so I’ve taken a look at the player markets to try and find a good single price for us to back.

When these two teams met in early November, 44% of Rangers’ play went down the left flank through the dangerous Ryan Kent. It was clear that the Gers identified Diogo Goncalves as a weak link and such was full-back’s poor first half performance, he was hauled off at half time after scoring an own-goal and his team being 2-1 and a man down.

Goncalves is filling in for the injured Andre Almeida and in his last four appearances have seen him booked three times despite only playing more than 45 minutes once. Almeida himself has been booked three times this season so it clearly an area of the pitch lacking in discipline and Rangers will surely be wise to target that flank once again.

The 11/2 price Bet365 are offering just seems far too big given that he is very likely to be playing out of position at right-back again, with the 23 year-old normally a winger. Last season, when playing for a side much lower down the Portuguese league in Famalicao, Goncalves was carded 9 times which was exclusively in more advanced roles, an extremely high amount which highlights the temperament of the wide man.

If Goncalves starts further up the pitch, you always have the option to cash out with Bet365 but I’d actually consider 11/2 rather large wherever he plays given the numbers.

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