Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas believes that Celtic will be dumped out of the Europa League when they travel to Zenit St Petersburg for the second leg of their last-32 tie on Thursday night.
Brendan Rodgers’ men hold a 1-0 lead going into their visit to Russia, but Nicholas has predicted that Roberto Mancini’s side will walk away 3-1 winners, boldly claiming that centre-back Branislav Ivanovic will be the first goalscorer.
Celtic were the best side from start to finish and grabbed a deserved winner when Callum McGregor smashed home a perfect ball into the box courtesy of assist from Charly Musonda.
Rodgers rested a bunch of players on Sunday in the 0-0 draw with St Johnstone, meaning that Celtic should have a well rest first-team squad for the clash against the Russian side.
However, the Sky Sports pundit does not believe that will be enough for the Glasgow giants to book their spot in the last-16 of the competition and has suggested that the super cold climate in Russia will play a major role.
Charlie Nicholas said on Sky Sports website:
“I have to admit Celtic’s defensive structure, which had been all over the place, looked excellent last weekend to go against my prediction that they’d lose the first leg,”
“Plenty of my friends point out that Zenit haven’t played in months but more importantly Celtic showed they do have Plan B in European games when they know they’re not going to dominate the ball.”
He also added:
“People might think us Scots are okay with the weather over there but the conditions are a different level of cold and I’m afraid I’m going for a tough night for the travellers and another Celtic defeat.”
Nicholas believes Ivanovic will get the first goal for Zenit, but the former Chelsea defender has struggled for fitness as of late and did not took part in the first leg.
Ivanovic has made 27 appearances across all competition for Zenit, netting three goals, which suggest that the Sky Sports pundit’s claim is quite the longshot.