In-form Celtic can draw on Lisbon Lions spirit for Inter clash
Celtic can take heart ahead of their Europa League knockout phase meeting with Inter Milan that the Nerazzurri have only ever beaten the Bhoys via a penalty shoot-out. Nonetheless, Coral make Roberto Mancini’s men 6/4 favourites to win the first leg in Scotland.
History is on Celtic’s side, however, and they were underdogs in the 1967 European Cup final, but rose to the occasion. Ronny Deila is 2/1 to mastermind a famous win over Inter, while a repeat 2-1 scoreline almost 50 years on from the Lisbon Lions is a 10/1 chance.
Odds of 9/4 say this last 32 first leg will end level, and two of three previous meetings between these two in normal time have ended 0-0. Another stalemate is 9/1.
The Bhoys should feel confident going into this one as they have won a perfect eight out of eight matches in 2015 so far. Deila has seen his side keep clean sheets in all but one of the last nine, with just a single goal conceded. A 13/5 price says Celtic will shut Inter out.
It’s true ex-Manchester City manager Mancini boasts a fearsome frontline, with his team an enhanced 3/1 to score in both halves. World Cup winner and Arsenal loanee Lukas Podolski has been left out of the Nerazzurri’s Europa League squad, however, so this hands further encouragement to the Bhoys.
Without Podolski, the Celtic defence will be occupied by Switzerland star Xherdan Shaqiri, an 11/4 anytime chance and Inter top scorer Mauro Icardi. Mancini rested the latter last time out with this match in mind, and the young Argentine attacker has struck six times in his last eight.
Icardi, linked with Chelsea and Manchester United, is 6/4 in the anytime market, and a better 11/2 to break the deadlock at Celtic Park. He can also expect midfield support from Colombia box-to-box player Fredy Guarin, who has three in his last two outings. A former target of Tottenham, he must be considered at 11/2 to grab another goal here.
Mancini’s men are not in great form on the road, though, with just one win in five on their travels this calendar year. Add defensive dearth to that, with full backs Jonathan (knee) and Yuto Nagatomo (thigh) definitely out as well as doubts over Marco Andreolli (thigh) and Hugo Campagnaro (thigh), and the Bhoys look more than capable of scoring.
Deila’s fellow Norwegian Stefan Johansen has emerged as a key player for Celtic, with the midfielder netting in each of the last three coming into this clash. Moreover, he has netted in three of the previous four Europa League games, including two consecutive home games.
Johansen is a fabulous 4/1 in the anytime market to keep his fine form in front of goal going. Leigh Griffiths may also occupy a weakened Nerazzurri rearguard, though Swedish striker John Guidetti is now eligible to play in the Europa League.
If Deila goes with Griffiths, punters will be pleased to know he has four in his last five Bhoys matches, so is a 2/1 anytime chance. Guidetti can also be backed in the same market.
With just Mikael Lustig (ankle) and Charlie Mulgrew (knee) definitely out for Celtic, their new signings Gary Mackay-Steven (11/4) and Stuart Armstrong (7/2) may be unknown quantities to Inter. Kris Commons (also 11/4) faces a fitness test on his hamstring.