Celtic to put the tie beyond doubt in the first half against Cliftonville

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After a 3-0 victory in Belfast, Celtic are all but through to the next round of Champions League qualifying.

A dominant first half display from the Bhoys saw defender Mikael Lustig time a run to perfection and thump home Kris Commons’ corner at the near post. Georgios Samaras turned and fired another home 15 minutes before the break and Jamie Forrest finished things off late in the second half.

The last time Celtic exited the competition at this stage was in 1999 after throwing away a 1-0 first-leg lead against Croatia Zagreb and at 1/20, anything other than a Hoops win looks unlikely.

The enormity of Cliftonville’s task is only augmented by the return of Gary Hooper, who is back from a groin strain for Celtic. Hooper, who scored 19 league goals for Neil Lennon’s men last year has attracted interest from several Premier League clubs and will provide a serious threat to the Belfast side’s goal. His odds of 2/1 to score first reflect that while he is as short as 2/5 to score anytime.

Those looking for a touch more value could be tempted by Charlie Mulgrew who is priced at 8/1 to score first and 2/1 anytime. The centre-half bagged five goals last term and eight in the season prior to that, with the 6’3 Glaswegian providing a constant threat from set pieces.

With Cliftonville failing to trouble the Celtic goal on home turf, 2/5 for Celtic to win to nil may appeal to some. The Bhoys have been known to be notoriously difficult to break down in this competition, as a 2-1 win over European giants Barcelona last year evidenced.

Another interesting bet could be for the first half to produce the most goals, priced at 13/8. In the first-leg, Celtic dominated early on, got the goals they required and then took their foot off the pedal. With qualification pretty much secured already, this could be the case again as Cliftonville look to keep the scoreline respectable.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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