CELTIC’s Champions League quest continues on Wednesday when they host Israeli side Hapoel Beer Sheva. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) offers his view.
Celtic v Hapoel Beer Sheva | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport 2
Celtic have faced some brutal passages to the Champions League group stages in recent years but this year’s challenge is definitely not amongst them.
Brendan Rodgers’ men first took on Gibraltar part-timers Lincoln Red Imps and incredibly lost the away leg 1-0. In many ways it was the worst result in Celtic’s 128 year history but an easy 3-0 second leg win means it will be remembered with an embarrassed chuckle rather than deep horror by the Celtic faithful.
From Gibraltar it was off to Kazakhstan to face an Astana side that reached the group stages of the Champions League last season. In their group they managed to avoid defeat in four of their six matches and managed a draw against eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid.
The Kazakh outfit were weakened from the season before but Celtic’s overall victory shouldn’t be underestimated. A draw in Kazakhstan bodes well for their forthcoming trip to Israel and there will be a bit of a swagger about the Glasgow club after kicking off the domestic season with two wins out of two.
This is all new to Beer Sheva. They won their first Israeli title in 40 years earlier this year and this is the furthest they’ve ever gone in European competition. What an opportunity for Celtic, a side very much at one with the European challenge.
Beer Sheva edged past Olympiakos in the previous round with just one goal in the two-leg tie and we could see a similar pattern emerge in this play-off round fixture.
Rodgers has already praised Beer Sheva for their defensive abilities and he seems almost resigned to the fact that they will be very hard to break down on Wednesday night.
Tight, edgy, untidy and scrappy. Those are definitely adjectives to describe Celtic’s tie against Astana and a similar approach looks the way to point your cash here.
At 3/4 Celtic look pretty much an accurate price. While the aura of Celtic Park on European nights took a bashing under Ronny Deila, I expect some repairs to that wound under Rodgers.
Even under Deila Celtic managed to beat Malmo, Dinamo Zagreb and current Romanian champs Astra Giurgiu at home and drew with Inter Milan. A narrow win on Wednesday looks possible.
Under 1.5 Goals looks massive here at 40/17 with Marathon Bet. It’s paid out in the last three Beer Sheva European matches and in two of Celtic’s qualifying matches last season.
While I think a 1-0 Celtic win looks the most likely scoreline, the 0-0 draw looks overpriced at 19/2 with Marathon Bet. Far too big.
Celtic v Hapoel Beer Sheva – Under 1.5 Goals (40/17 Marathon Bet)
Celtic v Hapoel Beer Sheva – 0-0 Draw (19/2 Marathon Bet)