It may have lacked the glamour and wow-factor of that win over Barcelona, but last night Celtic Park celebrated the hard-earned win over Spartak Moscow with similar jubilation. The Celts’ 2-1 victory over the Russian side combined with Benfica’s admittedly rather unfortunate draw with a disinterested Barcelona at the Camp Nou ensured that the Glasgow club will be in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2008.
Gary Hooper put them in the lead before the visitors equalised through Ari, but a Kris Commons penalty that got uncomfortably familiar with the crossbar saw them through to the Last 16. Having been given little chance of qualification when the groups were drawn, Celtic are now 100/1 for the Champions League, substantially shorter than the 500/1 on offer back in September.
Elsewhere, the champions are out. Chelsea upheld their end of the bargain by giving Nordsjaelland a solid 6-1 tonking, but Shahktar never looked like beating Juventus and providing the other part of the equation necessary for Chelsea’s unlikely progress. The good news is that Fernando Torres scored twice, but the bad news is people are taking it as a sign that things are about to change, which kind of tells you the level of straws we’re clutching at. The Pensioners get the mixed blessing of a place in the Europa League, a competition they last graced with their presence when it was in the UEFA Cup in the pre-Abramovich days of the 2002/03 season.
Manchester United lost at home to CFR Cluj of Romania. This is the bit when you expect talk of a weakened side, but it really wasn’t too weakened. Eight of United’s starting XI are first team regulars and will be hoping for a game in the Manchester derby on Sunday.
Tonight, it’s the last matchday in the group stages of the Champions League poorer, younger and less attractive little brother. Liverpool need to win in Udinese to progress, but a draw could suffice if Young Boys fail to beat Anzhi Makhachkala. The Reds are 19/20 to get that win.
Newcastle already know they’ll be in the Round of 32, but their game against Bordeaux will decide who goes through as group winners. The Magpies are 7/2 to pull off a surprise win in France.
Tottenham have passage to the knockout stage in their own hands. A win over Panathinaikos at White Hart Lane would see them through and at odds of 1/3, they’re expected to deliver.
Frankie Dettori has been handed a six month worldwide ban for failing a drugs test as Longchamp last September. It means he’ll be unavailable to ride in, amongst plenty of other things, the Dubai World Cup, the Guineas meeting at Newmarket, the Chester Cup meeting and the Dante Stakes meeting at York. He will return in time for the Derby meeting at Epsom.
The Italian jockey has accepted is punishment and a statement released via his solicitor, Christopher Stewart-Moore, speaks about the regret caused by his actions. “He accepts that he has let down the sport he loves and all those involved with it, as well as the wider public, But most of all – and this is his greatest regret – he has let down his wife and children,” explained Stewart-Moore.
The Frankie-less world of racing continues today with meetings from Leicester, Wincanton, Lingfield, Clonmel, Vaal, Meydan, & Pau.
- Betting: All Thursday’s cards, form and odds
- Betting: Ante-post prices on the Tingle Creek, King George and Cheltenham 2013
The shocks continue to come at the UK Championship. Last night three time world champion, John Higgins was knocked out at the hands of Mark Davis. The Celtic supporting Wishaw native could have been forgiven for having other things on his mind for the night, but he was hardly distracted, racking up the seventh 147 break of his career en route to a narrow 6-5 loss.
Elsewhere, 17 year olds Belgian prodigy, Luca Brecel secured his first appearance in the quarter-final of a ranking event. He overcame Mark King by a scoreline of 6-4 and will face former world champions, Shaun Murphy in the last eight. He’s 12/5 to pull off an upset when that make begins at around 7pm this evening. Neil Robertson is the 7/4 favourite to win the event outright with Murphy a 9/2 chance and Stuart Bingham third favourite at 11/2.