Cliftonville v Celtic: Hoops to plough on Hooper-less

Gray Hooper is on the brink of a move to QPR

Summer holidays are over for Celtic as they prepare for this all-British Champions League qualifier first leg....

"Both the third round of qualifying and their play-off last season witnessed the Bhoys take to the road with maximum efficiency, recording a pair of 2-0 victories, firstly at HJK and secondly at Helsingborg in the play-off round."
Best Bet: Back Celtic to Win To Nil @ 2.26/5

Cliftonville v Celtic, Wednesday 19:45, BBC Two Northern Ireland and BBC Two Scotland, Match Odds: Cliftonville 14.013/1, Celtic 1.282/7, The Draw 6.411/2

What should have been a very happy return to his homeland for Neil Lennon has been soured rather by the fact that his top scorer of the last three seasons is about to sign for QPR.

Gary Hooper has not made the trip to Belfast for this qualifier with reports suggesting that he is in the midst of tying up a £5 million move to the R's after Celtic had previously rejected bids from Hull and Norwich.

This is the news that Bhoys fans have been dreading but, after more than six months of speculation, Lennon must have been resigned to losing his best striker this summer and Celtic will have to move on without him.

This trip to the Northern Irish champions Cliftonville, who are still part-timers, should not prove too much of an obstacle in football terms, but the close links between the clubs make it a fascinating match-up.

For Cliftonville, it's the biggest game in their history and not just because of Celtic's pedigree, but because many of their players are lifelong supporters of the Scottish champions.

These semi-professionals cannot afford to be overawed though, as in their last foray into the Champions League qualifying process back in 1998, they ended up losing 13-1 on aggregate to far lesser opposition than mighty Celtic in Kosice.

There is sure to be a spectacular atmosphere in the 5200 capacity Solitude (it will be anything but) stadium, which should ensure that Cliftonville stick to their task, though any other result aside from a convincing Celtic victory is highly unlikely.

Celtic Win To Nil

This is the first time that Celtic have had to tackle three rounds of qualifiers to reach the group stage despite beating Barcelona en route to the round-of-16 last season. Nevertheless, both the third round of qualifying and their play-off last season witnessed the Bhoys take to the road with maximum efficiency, recording a pair of 2-0 victories, firstly at HJK and secondly at Helsingborg in the play-off round.

Half Time Score

Cliftonville's skipper Barry Johnston has already revealed they have a game plan to at least keep themselves in the tie before they visit Parkhead. This is likely to mean long periods of valiant defending, but you'd expect the gulf in class to ensure that Celtic at least have their noses in front going into the break. They led 1-0 at the interval in both legs of their last preliminary tie last term against Helsingborg.

Best Bet: Back Celtic to Win To Nil @ 2.26/5
Recommended Bet: Back Celtic to lead 1-0 at Half Time @ 3.259/4

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses
Bet now

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles