The eyes of the United Kingdom were on Celtic on Tuesday as their Champions League qualifier against Helsingborgs was broadcast across the nation. Neil Lennon’s men didn’t disappoint.
Despite some defensive frailties which the manager will want to address, a 2-0 win away from home has put them within touching distance of the glamour and riches that the world’s premier club competition provides.
But while the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robin van Persie and Lionel Messi are lying in wait, Celtic will have to come back down to earth fairly quickly as they are faced with the altogether less glamorous prospect of tackling Inverness CT at the Caledonian Stadium on Saturday lunchtime.
The contrast could barely be starker for the Hoops. Jags boss Terry Butcher has assembled a squad of players that most people wouldn’t recognise if they crashed their car into the team bus.
Gary Warren was recruited from Conference side Newport County, Conor Pepper joined from St Patrick’s, David Raven from Tranmere, Ross Draper from Macclesfield, Antonio Reguero from CF Gandia and Simon King was snapped up following his release from ‘The Hairy Bikers’. Oh wait, it’s not that Simon King…? This one came from Gillingham apparently. Who knew?
While the list of potential Champions League opponents reads like a who’s who of world football, Terry Butcher’s team sheet just reads more like a ‘who?’
Let’s just say that Neil Lennon will probably be spending his plane journey home from Sweden looking up Simon King on Wikipedia, before hastily arranging for a DVD-dub of the Hairy Bikers Cook Off to be sent to Celtic Park.
That said though, Inverness CT have actually made a really good start to the season. A 2-2 draw away to St Mirren was followed by a 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock and then a brilliant 2-2 draw away to Hearts last Saturday, during which they fought back from going 2-0 down and being reduced to ten men before half-time.
So despite most of us not knowing our Simon Kings from our Delia Smiths, and thinking that David Raven is that incredibly annoying bloke off the CBBC programme of the same name, Inverness seem to have managed to create a whole that is considerably greater than the sum of its parts.
On top of this, Lennon is already finding that balancing European football with league exertions is not easy, as a number of his squad face fitness tests ahead of the trip north. With this in mind, Celtic will need to be alert if they are going to avoid dropping points just like they did against ICT’s Highland rivals Ross County last Saturday.
Expect Inverness to battle away manfully, just don’t expect them to win. Lennon’s side are 1/2 to pick up all three points, while Caley are priced at 5/1 to grab their first victory of the season and the draw is on offer at 11/4.
But with Inverness bound to put up a fight, the best bet might be backing a draw at half-time and a Celtic win at full-time. This is on offer at 17/5, meaning new customers to bwin who use their free £20 bet to back this outcome stand to win £88 if successful.
Whatever happens, some of Inverness CT’s journeymen might just start to get some of the attention they deserve after showcasing their talents to a national TV audience. Who knows, you might even be able to stop one of their motorbikes and say hello.
Damn, I’ve got the wrong Simon King again, haven’t I…?
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