CELTIC go into their final Europa League group stage fixture needing just a point to be certain of a knockout stage berth. All that stand between Brendan Rodgers’ side and a place in the last 32 is the potential banana skin of Red Bull Salzburg, who reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last time around.

The Austrian champions have already booked their place in the knockout stages after beating sister club RB Leipzig 1-0 in their previous encounter but still carry more than enough about them to cause Rodgers’ side problems on Thursday night.

We’ve taken a look at Salzburg to see where they’re most dangerous, where Celtic will need to be wary of their opponents and what areas of the pitch Celtic can exploit in order to leave Celtic Park with all three points and European football after Christmas secured.

Salzburg are one of the Europa League’s form sides, boasting a 100% record in their opening five matches. As a result – and somewhat unsurprisingly – the Austrian side have a number of players leading the way in some of the most important metrics used to gauge players’ performances. There are a few players in particular Celtic will need to keep a close eye on.

Offensively, Salzburg have impressed this term in Europe and have a number of players excelling up front. Strikers Munar Dabbur and Takumi Minamino lead the scoring charts with five and four goals scored respectively, veteran left back Andreas Ulmer (three) has more assists than any other player in the Europa League and attacking midfielder Hannes Wolf has the highest expected assists (xA) in the competition with 2.74. Whatever way you look at it, Salzburg have a number of threats that Celtic will need to be wary of.

As the Europa League’s top scorer, Dabbur will likely need to be man-marked and for good reason too; 52.6% of the Israeli’s shots end up on target, which is the seventh-highest accuracy rate in the competition. Restricting opportunities for Dabbur will be of utmost importance to Rodgers and will go a long way to nullifying Salzburg’s attacking threat.

Salzburg’s other two forwards, Minamino and Fredrik Gulbrandsen, have also looked dangerous in Europe this season and the Celtic defence must look to isolate them if they’re to take anything from the game. Gulbrandsen and Minamino have the two highest shots per 90 minutes rates in this year’s Europa League, with both forwards averaging 5.8 shots per game. Both players also take more touches in the opposition box than any other in the Europa League, with Gudbrandsen averaging 8.6 per 90 and Minamino close behind with 8.4.

Individually, then, Salzburg are excelling in attack and the team’s collective statistics are equally intimidating. Salzburg have scored more goals than any other side in the group stages and have the highest expected goals (xG) in the competition with 13.1. This tells us that Salzburg’s forwards are both creating excellent chances for themselves and have a clinical streak in front of goal that makes them very dangerous opponents indeed.

Only Chelsea have hit more shots than Salzburg in the Europa League this season, once again underlining the attacking ethos at the Austrian club. Salzburg also have the third-highest cross completion rate in the group stages, with an impressive 43% of attempts into the box finding their man. Salzburg also have the individual with the highest crossing accuracy in the Europa league in their starting eleven; right back Stefan Lainer, who has a success rate of 52%.

However much Salzburg have impressed going forward, there are still issues at the back that Celtic can exploit on Thursday night. The Austrians have conceded five goals so far, but have an expected goals against (xGA) of 3.39. In a nutshell, this means that they’ve conceded a goal or two that they could have reasonably been expected to prevent.

Lainer appears to be the weak link that Celtic can take advantage of here. Of the five goals Salzburg have conceded in Europe, three have came from attacks down the left wing. The right back has been caught out of position on a few occasions after drifting forward and a pacy winger could strip away from him. Celtic’s single goal in the reverse fixture is a glaring example of this - Lainer was too far forward and failed to deal with a long ball over the top, which Odsonne Eduoard then finished with aplomb.

The French striker has a tendency to drift to the left of attack and could use this to his advantage on Thursday night by exploiting Lainer’s positioning. Scott Sinclair is another Celtic player who could make the difference - the English winger’s pace, combined with Lainer’s lack of positional discipline, could create gaps in the Salzburg defence.

Another key battle will take place on the opposite flank, where James Forrest will be trying to get the better of the 33-year-old Ulmer. Forrest’s pace is well-documented and with the winger in the form of his life at present, driving at Salzburg’s aging left back could provide some joy for Rodgers’ men. If Forrest can get in behind Ulmer, he can surely cause a lot of damage.

All in all it looks to be a difficult encounter for Celtic but it’s also one where Rodgers will back his players to do enough to secure qualification to the knockout rounds. Salzburg will surely be a threat in attack but in defence, particularly on either flank, there are areas of the pitch that Celtic’s attackers should be able to exploit. Salzburg are yet to lose a game in the Europa League or in the Austrian Bundesliga this season but Thursday night could well bring their phenomenal unbeaten run to an end. The opportunity is there for Celtic - all that remains to be seen is the Scottish champions can take it.