Celtic v Linfield Preview : Plain sailing for Brendan's Bhoys
Event Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow, Kick off at 7:45PM Wednesday 19th July.See Stats
Much was made of this tie ahead of the first leg in Belfast but on the pitch things went as expected. It was a comfortable 2-0 win for Celtic at Windsor Park last week and the SPL Champions now find themselves on the verge of a place in the next qualifying round. Could Linfield possibly pull off an incredible turnaround? Or is this simply another banker for Brendan Rodgers' side? Our preview looks ahead to the second leg.
Celtic in command
The first leg in Belfast did have the makings of a potential banana skin for Celtic. With no official travelling support and facing a potentially hostile environment inside Windsor Park, it could have made for an uncomfortable evening. However once the match kicked off, there was very little chance of that as goals from Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic put Celtic two goals to the good after just 22 minutes. They were not able to add to their tally in the second half but in truth they were in complete control and the 2-0 scoreline will see them return to Celtic Park well placed for the next stage of qualifying.
New signing Oliver Ntcham could feature after making his first appearance for the club in a friendly defeat by Lyon at the weekend. Aside from that, it's difficult to see much change for the Hoops in the second leg. Rodgers fielded a youthful side in that friendly with Lyon in order to keep his first team selection fresh and it's going to take something quite special in order for Celtic to throw this advantage away. Back in front of home support at Celtic Park, expect them to be even more formidable than in the game in Belfast.
Whatever happens at Celtic Park, Linfield can at least have a momentous occasion to look forward to. It's not often the Northern Irish double winners will have the opportunity to play on such a grand stage. They were clearly outclassed by their opponents in the first leg but David Healy's men deserve praise for the way in which they continued to battle throughout and in particularly in the second half. They remained competitive throughout and at no stage did it ever look as though they were going to be blown away. They were however unable to create any real openings of their own and that's going to have to change when they travel to Glasgow.
There were some unsavoury scenes in the first leg amongst the Linfield support including a bizarre incident when Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths was booked after a bottle had been thrown at him. Such incidents did not put Celtic off in the first leg but can Linfield possibly come to the home of the Scottish Treble winners and claim a shock result? It seems unlikely given the Blues miserable away record in Europe but the odds are favourable if you did fancy an outside punt. To put it in perspective however, Linfield have only ever won four away games in Europe in their history and two of those came against sides based in the Faroe Islands.
Betting on Linfield winning at Celtic Park would only really amount to a complete waste of your free bet. They are 55/1 for a reason and Celtic will surely follow up their win in Belfast with another win. We like the look of them at a -3 handicap.
- Celtic won all three of their home qualfiers in last season's competition
- The Hoops have lost just one of their last seven home games against fellow British sides in European Competitions
- Linfield have never won a European two-legged tie when they have lost the home fixture
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