CELTIC brushed past Stjarnan fairly easily in their first Champions League qualifier but face a tougher test against Qarabag.

For those unfamiliar with the team Qarabag are Azerbaijan champions and not something you pay 5p for in the local supermarket.

They are team well backed with oil money and one that’s been building a decent pedigree in Europe in recent seasons.

Celtic have home advantage on Wednesday and must make use of it ahead of a gruelling trip to Baku – although it’s not as far as they travelled two seasons ago when they visited Kazakhstan.

Ronny Deila looks much better prepared than last season and even ditched the club’s normal pre-season trips to the likes of Australian and the USA to fully energise the squad for a Champions League tilt.

He’s strengthened the squad with the signing of Nadir Ciftci aim and a repeat of the 2-0 win notched against Stjarnan in the previous round would be perfect.

Celtic expect to score on the road so they’d be setting Qarabag an impossible target of winning 4-1 in Baku.

Qarabag are streets better than Stjarnan but Celtic’s fitness levels are improving all the time and I expect them to win but best price available is a skinny 1-10 from McBookie and BetVictor.

To win to nil – as they’ve done in seven of their last eight qualifiers – Celtic are 23-20 at McBookie and BetVictor and to succeed by at least two goals you can have 13-10 at William Hill and Bet365.

A 2-0 win pays 11-2 at McBookie while 1-0 is 5-1 at William Hill.

It’s worth noting Qarabag are an “unders” team with 10 of their last 11 matches in Europe producing fewer than three goals. Under 2.5 goals tonight is 13-17 at 888Sport.

Qarabag have defeated Rosenborg, Wisla Krakow and Twente Enschede in recent seasons and last term they reached the Europa League groups and drew with St Etienne twice, held Inter Milan and beat losing finalists Dnipro.

However, they disappointed in the last round by beating Rudar just 1-0 on aggregate and Celtic will hope that’s the side that turns up.

Leigh Griffiths could start at the expense of Nadir Ciftci and if does I’ll back him to score first at 9-2 with Boylesports.

New centre-half Dedryck Boyata has posed a goal threat and is 12-1 at Boylesports to net at any time. To net first he is 40-1 at Ladbrokes and William Hill.

Another possibility is Gary Mackay-Steven who has netted in four of Celtic’s pre-season friendlies including Rennes at the weekend. He missed the Stjarnan home leg after picking up a knock in the warm-up but is fully fit again and should start.

Recommended Bets

Celtic to win to nil
(23-20, McBookie)

Boyata to score
(12-1, Boylesports)


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