Hapoel Be’er Sheva: WWWLW
Kick Off: 19:45, 17/08/16
TV: BT Sport 2
Including the International Champions Cup, Celtic have featured in no fewer than four competitions already this season and it’s only mid-August.
The Bhoys have come through two rounds of Champions League qualifiers, advanced in the first round of the League Cup, got their Premiership campaign underway and last night completed their quota of ICC matches against Inter Milan.
Their 2-0 defeat to the Serie A heavyweights was their third regulation time loss of what has been an inconsistent pre-season that officially started way back in June.
In the Champions League, they’ve failed to prevail in both of their first-leg bouts so far, drawing 1-1 with Kazakhstan’s Astana in the previous round after their incredible defeat to the Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar in their maiden competitive match of the season.
This shock loss certainly means Be’er Sheva can’t be ruled out at 17/4. Celtic are on offer at 3/5, while it’s 3/1 that game ends honours even.
It’s at this stage of the competition where the Bhoys fell in each of the previous two campaigns under Ronny Deila. The Norwegian’s struggles in Europe essentially rendered his time in Scotland as a failure, so for the sake of Brendan Rodgers’ reputation, progress to the group stages is vital.
The bookies expect him to steer Celtic through, though they’re not exactly writing the Israelis off. Be’er Sheva can be backed as 13/10 underdogs to advance, with the first-leg hosts installed as 11/20 favourites.
But given Celtic’s recent toils in this competition, backing the outsiders over two legs may well prove profitable.
Be’er Sheva twice recorded goalless draws in their pair of Champions League away games this campaign, one especially commendable stalemate coming at the home of perennial Greek champions Olympiakos in the previous round.
It was the second of three clean sheets recorded from four competitive road games this season.
Clearly, they’re no chumps and Celtic have already been beaten by a far worse team this term. This being the case, there has to be some value in the 15/4 about an away clean sheet here.