Champions League Wednesday predictions: Goals on the cards in Qarabag clash
There are five first-leg ties taking place in the Champions League third qualifying round on Wednesday, with Bodo/Glimt, Qarabag, Dynamo Kiev and Red Star Belgrade among those hoping to put themselves in the ascendancy.
Fresh from an 8-0 rout at home to Northern Irish outfit Linfield in the second leg of the second qualifying round last Wednesday, Bodo/Glimt host Lithuanian minnows Zalgiris Vilnius, while Olympiacos' conquerors Maccabi Haifa entertain Apollon Limassol.
Elsewhere, Qarabag face Ferencvaros and Ukrainian outfit Dynamo Kiev, who dumped out Fenerbahce in the previous round, welcome Sturm Graz to a neutral location in Lodz.
The final match on Wednesday evening pits Red Star Belgrade against Armenian team Pyunik Yerevan, a match-up the Serbian side would be expected to dominate.
Qarabag vs Ferencvaros (Wednesday, 5pm BST)
Qarabag have already come through two rounds of Champions League qualifying, having progressed past Lech Poznan and FC Zurich, and now they turn their attention to Ferencvaros.
Ferencvaros have knocked out Tobol and Slovan Bratislava to get this far and are hoping to reach the group stage just as they did in 2019-20, when they managed only one point from six games against Juventus, Barcelona and Dynamo Kiev.
Qarabag fell at this stage of Champions League qualifying against Molde two years ago and suffered the same fate against APOEL the season before.
They missed out on the chance to qualify last term but are back in the big time, having won the Azerbaijani title for the ninth time last season.
Their new domestic campaign has yet to get up-and-running while Ferencvaros are one from one in Hungary after Kristoffer Zachariassen’s stoppage-time winner against Puskas on Sunday.
This is the first competitive meeting between these sides but goals have been in high demand for both in their recent qualifiers.
Qarabag’s four qualifiers this season have seen a total of 16 goals, with both teams scoring in three of those contests, while the Hungarian visitors have seen the net bulge 14 times, with both teams also scoring on three occasions.
Recent evidence suggests this could be an entertaining encounter with Ferencvaros bidding to extend a 13-match unbeaten streak on their travels.
Qarabag are notoriously strong in Baku, however, with their only defeat in a competitive home game last season coming against Marseille in the Europa League.
This could be tight, but goals look assured so a score-draw may be the likeliest outcome.
Maccabi Haifa vs Apollon Limassol (Wednesday, 6pm BST)
Maccabi Haifa delivered one of the performances of the second round of qualifying as they ran riot in a 4-0 win at Olympiacos, a marked improvement given they had drawn the opening leg at home 1-1.
The Israeli champions now face Cypriot side Apollon Limassol, who were last on the European scene when knocked out in the group stage of the 2018-2019 Europa League campaign.
Neither Maccabi Haifa or Apollon Limassol have started their domestic campaign yet, so the Israeli hosts may have a significant advantage having knocked out a strong Olympiacos team in the previous round.
Frantzdy Pierrot was on target twice in the second leg so he has not taken long to hit the ground running, having only joined from Ligue 2 side Guingamp during the summer.
Barak Bakhar’s side were involved in the Europa Conference League group stage last season and they lost only one of their three home games, drawing with Feyenoord and beating Slavia Prague.
In fact, Maccabi Haifa have lost only three of their last 35 competitive home games whereas Apollon managed just one win from their final seven away outings last season.
This looks an excellent opportunity for Maccabi Haifa to carve out a first-leg lead, especially given their recent dominance at home and the fact their opponents may be a little rusty.
It is worth noting that Maccabi Haifa have kept nine clean sheets in their last 14 home games, which enhances the chances of a victory to nil.