Celtic v Hapoel Be’er Sheva – Wednesday 7.45pm, BT Sport 2
Hapoel Be’er Sheva are hardly European giants, having won the Israeli league for the first time in 40 years, but they stand between Celtic and the Champions League group stage. However, the Scottish champions have fallen at this hurdle in the last two years against Malmo and Maribor, both sides they would expect to beat, so they can’t take anything for granted.
So far Brendan Rodgers’ side have been unconvincing in this year’s qualification, as they lost an away leg to Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps and relied on two penalties at home to get past FC Astana. They’ve started their domestic campaign much more positively with victory away at Hearts and thumping Motherwell in the Cup. Moussa Dembele’s hit the ground running since joining from Fulham, netting a brace against Motherwell and also finding the net in the home leg against Astana, so he’s worth considering in the goalscorer markets .
Be’er Sheva will no doubt aim to secure a goalless draw on the road before coming out on top in Israel, a ploy that saw them impressively overcome Olympiakos in the last qualifying round as well as FC Sheriff prior to that. No member of the squad has scored more than once this campaign, while their chief danger man Anthony Nwakaeme has yet to find the net after reaching double-figures last term, so we’re not expecting the Israelis to trouble the scorers.
Instead, expect them to park the bus, with their last three games in this competition all being goalless at half-time. However, the hosts rarely fail to score at home – netting in their last 12 European games here – so we expect the pressure to tell in the end for The Hoops. With that in mind the draw/Celtic (HT/FT) at 4.6 looks the best bet.