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Champions League preview – Celtic will find Braga tough to crack

| 27.07.2010

The convoluted process to determine the final 10 Champions League participants begins in earnest tonight.

Three first-leg ties kick off at 7.45pm, with both European Cup veterans and novices featuring.

This is the non-champions route to the tournament with the winners advancing to a play-off round when five more teams, including Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla, join the fray.

Braga v Celtic
Celtic were the first British team to win the big trophy, in 1967, but in recent times have found themselves among the also-rans of the competition, if qualifying for it at all.

They were dumped out at the play-off stage last year, 5-1 on aggregate by Arsenal, and are at risk of a similar fate here. It’s 5/6 for them to lose the tie.

Braga have never reached the Champions League before, but finished second in Portuguese Liga, consigning Porto to the Europa League, and only conceded 20 goals in 30 league games last term.

Portugal number one Eduardo has moved on, but with the ex-national keeper Quim in to replace him they should be difficult to score against. Braga are 10/11 to win the match in normal time.

Celtic new boy Joe Ledley is an exciting talent and will provide support for Georgios Samaras up front (8/1 to score first), but a draw, at 9/4, may be the best the Glasgow side can hope for. 1-1 would be a decent result and is 11/2.

Ajax v PAOK
Ajax, 100/1 to win the Champions League, will be buoyed by Martin Jol’s decision to stay, but with European teams eyeing their best players the four-time winners may find concentration an issue.

Luis Suarez should play in both legs, ruling him ineligible for other teams in Europe and with the Uruguayan up front, a home win, at 1/3, should be expected.

PAOK came third in the Greek league last year and their best hope is a draw, which is a 10/3 chance in the Amsterdam Arena.

Young Boys v Fenerbache
Young Boys went close to claiming their first Swiss Super League title since 1986 last year and another runners-up spot in this two-horse race looks likely. They are 10/11 to lose in 90 minutes.

Fenerbache have a good history in this competition and with a squad bristling with talent should have too much over two legs. They are 7/1 to win the tie 2-1.

Can any of these teams go all the way from third qualifying round to winning the final? Celtic are 250/1 to pull of the unlikeliest of runs and win the trophy again. See the full Champions League betting market.



John Klee