180 minutes separate Celtic from the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Their journey to the play-off has been so far so good. It started on a poor note when the Hoops were beaten 1-0 by minnows Lincoln Red Imps from Gibraltar but the Bhoys came back with a 3-0 win in the return leg. Next in their way was Astana from Kazakhstan. The Hoops progressed to the play-off following a dramatic 2-1 victory over Astana as Moussa Dembele scored a stoppage-time penalty to settle the game after the first leg finished 1-1.
Celtic’s opponents tonight Hapoel Be’er Sheva are a strong team though and defeated might Greek side Olympiacos to come this far. Be’er Sheva warmed up for their trip to Paradise with a 4-2 win over Maccabi Haifa in the Israeli Super Cup. Last season, Ronny Deila’s Celtic missed their chance to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League having lost to Swedish side Malmo in the play-off. Rodgers will be keen to use the advantage of having the first leg at home and build a solid lead at Paradise.
Erik Sviatchenko participated in full training on Tuesday and could return to the squad after three weeks out with a groin injury. New signing Dorus de Vries isn’t fit enough to feature as he recovers from an ankle injury he sustained last weekend. Nir Bitton is back to full training but is still a bit short on match fitness. Dedryck Boyata is having a similar situation as well. Kris Commons and Gary Mackay-Steven have returned to training but won’t be fit enough to be involved. Patrick Roberts has returned to light training having recovered well from a hamstring injury still not match fit. Jozo Simunovic is still recovering from knee surgery that he underwent in March and has returned to light training but is still short of match fitness.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva
The only injury concern for the Israeli side is that their skipper Elyaniv Barda will miss the first leg with a groin injury he suffered last weekend. Apart from that, it’s a clean bill of health for Barak Bakhar’s side.
Celtic (4-4-2): Gordon; Lustig, Toure, O’Connell, Tierney; Forrest, Brown, McGregor, Sinclair; Griffiths, Dembele
Hapoel Be’er Sheva(4-4-3): Goresh; Bitton, Zedek, Vitor, Davidazde; Hoban, Brown, Ogu; Melikson, Maranhão, Nwakaeme
Celtic are playing the first leg at home and Rodgers will give everything in his locker to use this as an advantage. We can expect Celtic playing their best game of the season so far when they feature against the Israeli champions. The outcome we predict is a 2-0 win for the Hoops.