Rangers’ fall from grace means Celtic are 1/25 favourites to win the Scottish Premier League and preparations for their title defence start in earnest against FC Augsburg this evening.
However, if Celtic’s playing staff could almost be forgiven for not taking the challenge of retaining their SPL crown too seriously given the demise of their main rivals, manager Neil Lennon has made it clear that he expects his charges to be fully focussed ahead of today’s meeting with the German outfit.
Lennon is committed to ensuring Celtic are fully prepared to meet the test of reaching the Champions League group stage, with their initial hurdle in this quest set to be confronted on either July 31st or August 1st, when the first leg of the third qualification round is due to take place.
Celtic have lost their first friendly of the season in each of the last two years – to Philadelphia Union in 2010/11 and Central Coast Mariners in 2011/12.
But even if Celtic are committed to hitting the ground running, they could struggle to beat Augsburg.
The German side, who finished 14th in the Bundesliga last season, are already three games into their pre-season preparations.
Although Celtic will represent a step-up in class in terms of opposition, Augsburg’s extra match practice could be telling this evening.
The Hoops are likely to make a number of changes over the 90 minutes as the players ease themselves into the rigours of match play, while their opponents will be more prepared.
Celtic’s record against European opposition on the road should also come into consideration.
The Scottish outfit have not won on the road in Europe in 14 games, and although this is only a friendly it nevertheless illustrates an aversion to playing on the continent.
It is also worth noting that Celtic have lost their first friendly of the season in each of the last two years – to Philadelphia Union in 2010/11 and Central Coast Mariners in 2011/12.
With all this in mind, 5/4 on an Augsburg win in 90 minutes looks a good option, with a £20 free bet on this outcome set to return £45.
Bwin offers up to £20 in free bets to new customers who sign up for a bwin account.
Meanwhile, a draw is available at 23/10 and a Celtic win is at 7/4.
But while it could be worth opposing Celtic in their first friendly of the year, the absence of Rangers in the SPL means you can’t look past the Hoops for the title.
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