Hell hath no fury like a Barcelona team that paid the price for underestimating Spanish Primera Division side Alaves on Sunday and Celtic is likely to feel the full force when it faces Barca in UEFA Champions League Group C on Wednesday.
Barcelona boss Luis Enrique rested Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez versus Alaves, perhaps understandably given that Messi and Suarez had played for their respective national teams in South America a few days earlier and the Camp Nou visitor is a Spanish Primera Division newcomer. Barcelona dominated the Spanish Primera Division game – for example, it led the corner-kick count 13-0 – but Alaves prevailed 2-1 thanks to goals either side of half time.
A shock home loss to Alaves may end up being the difference between Barcelona retaining and relinquishing the Spanish Primera Division title because one would expect none of the other championship contenders to drop points – either in front of their own supporters or on their travels – to one of the promoted sides. Not even the world’s best stand-up comedian would have been able to put smiles on the dials of Barcelona players, coaches and fans going into Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League Group C match and that spells trouble for a Celtic team that is out of its depth at this level.
Celtic has kept only two clean sheets in its 11 competitive games under Brendan Rodgers and they were achieved at home to Lincoln of Gibraltar and Motherwell of Scotland. Celtic is 0-2-3 in its last five UEFA Champions League away matches when it has encountered Astana, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Lincoln, Malmo and Qarabag – hardly the greats of European football. Barcelona has won each of its last 11 UEFA Champions League home games, eight of them after leading at the half-time interval and four of them courtesy of winning both halves.
888Sport and Unibet are offering odds of -143 about Barcelona winning both halves of its UEFA Champions League Group C match against Celtic and that’s generous in the circumstances. Barcelona beat Celtic 3-1 in a Dublin pre-season friendly when the Bhoys were closer to full strength than Barca. Barcelona led 3-1 inside 41 minutes of that game and one is sure that Barca would have gone on with the job in the second half had it not been a meaningless warm-up match.
It follows that if one rates Juventus as the best bet of the UEFA Champions League group stage then one must fancy it to get the better of Sevilla in Group G action on Wednesday.
The new Juventus model looks better than the one that last season was seconds away from eliminating Bayern Munchen from the UEFA Champions League before exiting after extra time. Sevilla did not win a single Spanish Primera Division away game last term and one has not been impressed with its performances across various events this season. Sevilla slumped to a 0-5 Spanish Super Cup aggregate loss to Barcelona, it trailed Espanyol 3-1 just before half time of its Spanish Primera Division curtain raiser and it was heading for a 0-1 home league loss to Las Palmas before Pedro Bigas received his marching orders in the 88th minute. Juventus are -167 with Marathonbet.
Finally, it was a toss up between Basel and Tottenham for one’s third UEFA Champions League pick. Ultimately one came down on the side of Tottenham, which is available at odds of -137 with BoyleSports, Betfred and William Hill to defeat Monaco at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.
Tottenham thrashed Monaco 4-1 in the equivalent UEFA Europa League match last term and one is far from convinced about the merit of the French Ligue 1 leader’s form even though it has strung together five victories since mid August.
Barcelona to Win Both Halves v Celtic
Tuesday 13th September, 19:45 GMT
Juventus to beat Sevilla
Wednesday 14th September, 19:45 GMT
Tottenham to beat Monaco
Wednesday 14th September, 19:45 GMT