Celtic v Hapoel Beer Sheva
Thursday August 18, 4:45am
Brendan Rodgers, Scott Sinclair, Kolo Toure – Celtic’s three headline summer additions have all finished in the top two of the English Premier League in the past four seasons, perhaps representing a step-up in the calibre of personnel being recruited by the Scottish champions.
The Bhoys also brought in Fulham forward Moussa Dembele, who has been praised by Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane and targeted by Tottenham, as well as a third Rodgers disciple to accompany Sinclair and Toure in Dutch goalkeeper Dorus de Vries.
Things haven’t gone quite as well on the pitch as off it thus far, though there are signs that they are edging closer to the required standard, winning each of their most recent three encounters after a loss, a victory and a draw in the initial three.
Hapoel Beer Sheva
This is Hapoel Beer Sheva’s maiden Champions League campaign and they arrived in the competition with little European pedigree. Their two prior ventures this decade saw them enter and exit the Europa League in the second qualifying round in 2014/15 and 2015/16 without claiming a single win.
However, their domestic title triumph appears to have fuelled confidence, or perhaps the motivation is awareness that it might be a while before they get another opportunity like this. Whatever force is at work, it is proving effective as they found a way past not only Sheriff but Olympiakos.
That’s right, the Israeli league winners have already eliminated a side that participated in the group stage in each of the past five years, so they won’t be intimidated by Celtic’s more illustrious continental history.
Celtic ducked out in the play-off round in both of the previous two summers under Ronny Deila, but the trends are positive for them to at least prevail in the home leg of this tie, if not progress to the first round.
They won their two prior Celtic Park showdowns with Israeli guests and are on a run of five straight successes in front of their fans in the Champions League since the start of last term. Even when Malmo FF denied them a spot in the group stage, the Swedes couldn’t avoid a defeat in Glasgow.
Throughout 2016, regardless of whether it has been Deila or Rodgers barking out the orders, Celtic’s record as hosts has been excellent. They haven’t been beaten once, winning 12 from a possible 14, so 1.64 seems about right despite Hapoel Beer Sheva’s goalless draw in Greece last month.
Both Teams to Score? No
Opposing both teams to score would have earned you a profit in 12 of Celtic’s latest 15 Champions League home games and looks to be a particularly wise approach for this clash at odds of 1.87.
Hapoel Beer Sheva’s last three fixtures in the competition delivered just one goal in total as they engaged in stalemates away to Sheriff and Olympiakos before conquering the Greek giants 1-0 in Israel.
If you mix this low-score likelihood with a Bhoys victory then, instead of backing two odds-on shots, you can combine the outcome with under 2.5 goals at odds of 2.90.
BACK – Both Teams to Score? No at 1.8
BACK – Celtic to win and under 2.5 goals at 3