Celtic vs HJK Helsinki Betting
Neil Lennon and Celtic are set for what could already be the defining game of their season on Wednesday evening as they take on Finnish side HJK Helsinki at Parkhead in their Champions League qualifier.
With Rangers well-documented plight seeing Ally McCoist’s team operate in Division 3 in Scotland this season, Celtic appear set for a trouble free ride to domestic success in the year ahead and Lennon will be desperately seeking European football to act as a stimulus for his troops in the months ahead.
The Hoops must overcome Helsinki in order to guarantee at least a Europa League berth. They will still have another hurdle to negotiate for a place at Europe’s top table, but defeat to the Finns would spell the end for Celtic and leave a long winter in store Lennon.
Celtic are 4/11 favourites to get their bid off to a positive start with a win on home soil on Wednesday with the draw priced at 3/1 and the visitors at 6/1 to leave Glasgow’s East End with a win.
Despite failing to get out of a difficult section in the Europa League last term, Lennon did manage to arrest Celtic’s run of poor form on their travels as they gained encouraging draws in Udinese and Rennes. If Lennon can restore his team’s formidable European record in Glasgow, he will be confident of putting together a decent European campaign this season.
Celtic are 10/11 to lead the game at half time and win on Wednesday and they completed their preparations with a satisfying 1-1 draw against Inter Milan on Saturday.
“I thought there was a real spring in their step. They played really well against a class side. To say that was the best we’ve played pre-season would be an understatement,” Lennon said of his side’s performance against the Italians.
The former Parkhead skipper is left waiting on the fitness of Anthony Stokes and goalscorer Kris Commons after they picked up knocks in that clash, but he is hopeful of having both men available.
“I think Kris would be a bigger doubt that Anthony at the minute. We will give them as long as possible to see if they can recover in time for Wednesday,” added the Celtic boss.
Gary Hooper is the 7/2 favourite to open the scoring on Wednesday, while Commons (6/1) has been impressive in pre-season after enduring an injury-hit campaign last term. Celtic will be hoping to hang on to prized winger James Forrest this season, and the Scotland international is 7/1 to score the opener against Helsinki.
Lennon is hoping to take advantage of the having the first leg in Glasgow, but knows the dangers presented by a visiting side already well into their domestic campaign.
“I would like to win Wednesday’s game and win it by as much as possible but having watched Helsinki I know it’s going to be a really hard game,” added Lennon. “They have got a bit of pace in their team, particularly in wide areas.”
The Irishman believes patience could be key to his team’s chances and feels they are now prepared for the test following some tough pre-season encounters against Inter, Ajax and Norwich City.
“They have very fit players who know their way around the pitch and they are going to be hard to beat, to break down, so the onus is on us to try to do that,” Lennon said. “And we will have to be patient. I think physically we are in good condition and the football is starting to look better so I think we are ready.”
It is 3/1 the game will be level at half time and Celtic win on Wednesday evening.