Live on Sky Sports 4. Kick off Saturday 12:15
It’s always dangerous to base any kind of analysis on pre-season friendly matches but with so many ins and out at Celtic Park over the Summer there’s little point in using last season’s side as a point of reference for this term’s opener at newly-promoted Inverness Caley. Neil Lennon may have steered his team to 8 Premier League wins on the trot to mount a strong finish to 2009-10 but few of that side will feature in this lunch-time kick-off on Saturday.
Lennon will hope his new charges fare better in the SPL than they have done so far in pre-season and their short-lived Champions League campaign. The Hoops have managed just one clean sheet and found themselves falling behind far too often for the Northern Irishman’s liking. That however, may provide a clue as to how this game will go. Losing goals on the road has long been Celtic’s problem and serious questions still remain about the quality of their back line, especially since the hasty departure of goalkeeper Artur Boruc. His replacement Lucas Zaluska, has failed to live up to initial promise and has proven to be unconvincing at set-pieces. To me it points to Caley getting themselves on the scoresheet at some point in the game but unfortunately there’s no market available on them just to score.
To open the scoring Terry Butcher’s men are 11/4 (Blue Sq, William Hill) and that’s not a bad option. Combine that with the fact that I think Celtic will win and you can have 15/2 (Ladbrokes) that the Hoops will come from behind to take the three points.
For the game itself, Celtic are too short for me at 4/9 (Boylesports, SkyBet) and there’ll be those who fancy a bit of 7/1 (Bet365, Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes, SkyBet) for the home win. That might be a bit ambitious on the side who will need to re-adjust to life in the SPL but this season I think you could do worse than oppose either half of the Old Firm away from home every week. Better still is the incredibly generous 15/2 (888 Sport, Blue Sq) on Caley to be winning at half-time – I can’t understand how they can be bigger odds to lead after 45, than win over the 90.
One man who has impressed for Celtic so far is Mexican Efrain Juarez. He doesn’t look to be shy of having a dig from distance and is Stilian Petrov-esque in his bustling style of play. If he can get into the box as much as the Bulgarian did in his spell in the SPL he’ll find his way onto the scoresheet and looks right good value at 8/1 (Bet365) to get a goal at anytime.