Stjarnan v Celtic: Don’t expect the Bhoys to come through unscathed

Celtic will face a stark change of scenery when they visit the 1,000 capacity Samsungvollur as they bid to finish off Stjarnan on Wednesday, but deal with conditions and they should have too much for the Icelanders to cope with.

Ronny Deila was slightly disappointed that the Hoops weren’t able to kill off their opponents in Glasgow, and now faces a tricky astroturf adventure if they are to reach the Champions League third qualifying round.

The visitors are 4/9 to beat their Scandinavian opponents again, but while that should be relatively safe, it may be worth backing the hosts to get on the scoresheet as well.

Home fans will be desperate to see their charges launch into one of their fantastically elaborate celebrations, and they may well deliver.

They certainly have pedigree for finding the net at home, with just two of their last 17 matches on their own patch seeing them draw a blank.

But it’s not just the confines of the Icelandic league that they are potent in.

On their four previous endeavours in Europe only Inter Milan have kept Stjarnan’s strikers out.

Four goals against Bangor City in a comprehensive win precluded a shock 3-2 extra-time victory against fellow Ladbrokes Premiership outfit Motherwell, while Polish side Lech Poznan also failed to keep a clean sheet on the outskirts of Reykjavik.

Many may see fitness coming into play in the harsh conditions of Iceland, with the home side’s match practice guaranteed after 11 league games already this season.

But truth be told, they have struggled for form.

While they would undoubtedly prefer to be challenging for the title, four wins and four draws from 16 matches sees Rúnar Páll Sigmundsson’s men languishing in mid-table obscurity.

He says his side have been performing with credit lately without delivering:

“We’ve been dominating matches, but we are not taking our chances and it ends up costing us”.

They will have to significantly up their game if they are to overcome a two-goal disadvantage, but it is hard to see them doing that.

The Bhoys are likely to be sharper for their 4-1 pre-season warm-up against Eibar at the weekend and should have more than enough to book a spot in the next round.

While they are worthy favourites for success, taking the 7/2 (boosted from 14/5 at 8am on Wednesday) on both teams scoring in a Celtic victory could prove shrewd.

The hosts are known to entertain their fans with plenty of goals while the Glasgow giants have failed to keep clean sheets in 10 of their last 11 matches in Europe which should make for entertaining stuff in this qualifying decider.

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

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.