CELTIC’S season gets underway against Icelandic opposition in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) gives us his thoughts.
Celtic v Stjarnan | Wednesday 19:45
For the second consecutive season Celtic play their opening match of the campaign against a side from Iceland. Last year they met KR in this stage of the Champions League and now they face Stjarnan.
You’d like to think things will be a lot more settled this time round with Ronny Deila now over a year into his tenure at the Glasgow club. Celtic won 1-0 in Iceland last July before winning 4-0 at Parkhead the week after. Bookmakers clearly expect something similar with the Scots chalked up at best price 1/11 here.
Stjarnan are a progressive club who won their first ever Icelandic title in 2014 and had an excellent run in the Europa League on their virginal European adventure.
Welsh side Bangor City were mauled 8-0 on aggregate in the opening round before Motherwell were turned over in extra time. Things got better still, Lech Pozan (who went on to win the Polish title) were knocked out before Inter thrashed them in the play-off round 9-0 on aggregate.
Make no mistake though, those opening three victories should definitely concern Celtic. The Glasgow club were demolished by Legia Warsaw early last season in the Champions League around the same time Stjarnan knocked out Lech.
To offer 27/1 on Stjarnan for me is an insult. The Icelandic side will have been preparing for this tie for months and the fact they’re already engaged in the hurly-burly of weekly football is a plus point.
Scottish sides have got off to a dreadful start in the Europa League this season and while Celtic are on a different plane to St Johnstone and Aberdeen it’s still disconcerting.
What’s the angle then? Well, Stjarnan aren’t really prolific scorers. Just one goal overall when knocking out Lech last season, none against Inter Milan and just 13 in 11 league games this season. For that reason I’ll dip into the Unders markets and get involved with Under 2.5, Under 3.5 and even a silly bet on 0-0 at enormous odds.
Do I want Celtic to win? Of course I do, I’m Scottish, but bookmakers seem to overrating SPFL sides in these early European rounds. It’s worth trying to exploit.