Winning the league is nothing more than a necessity at Parkhead. Brendan Rodgers would have been fully aware of this expectation that takes the shape of a poisoned chalice.
While Rodgers would have been excited to take the helm of such a famous club with such a strong chance of domestic success, he will know that failure to make progress in Europe will not grant him the redemption he seeks after his disappointing departure from Liverpool.
Celtic’s supremacy has made betting on the winner of the Scottish Premiership a futile endeavour. Prices around 1/10 reflect the club’s dominance. Prices of around 11/2 on Rangers to claim the title seem far too short considering the gulf between the two teams on show in the recent derby.
While the margin of victory may have been narrow, the manner of victory displayed a chasm in class. For all the fanfare surrounding Steven Gerrard’s arrival at Rangers, one win in his opening four games highlights how the new manager will understandably take time to get to grips with the job.
Therefore, the Europa League provides the real source of intrigue for Celtic fans this season. Backing Celtic to win the Europa League is undeniably a long shot. This type of punt is best reserved for free bets, with minimal risk and massive potential. The aforementioned price of 66/1 is available at bookmakers such as Coral, with Coral football betting offers giving new players bonuses that can be used to back the Bhoys. Using a free bet would certainly soften the blow of Celtic being drawn against a Chelsea or a Sevilla in a later round, with knockout competitions being particularly unpredictable.
Some of the teams available at shorter prices than Celtic seem to be dining off their name rather than genuine quality. If Celtic make it through a difficult group, they will arrive in the knockout stages brimming with confidence. Rodgers would certainly fancy their chances against Dynamo Kiev, Anderlecht and Bordeaux, all available at shorter prices than Celtic in the Europa League outright market.
Their draw could have been kinder. The Red Bull ‘derby’ between the teams of Salzburg and Leipzig will attract much of the group’s attention, with Rosenborg completing the quartet. RB Leipzig feature formidable talents in the shape of Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg, but there is a vulnerability in the side that saw them struggle in qualification against Zorya of Ukraine.
Red Bull Salzburg defied expectations to reach the semi-final in last year’s competition. Rodgers will look at last year’s side as inspiration and this year’s side as a team that Celtic have to take four points from to progress. Salzburg and Celtic can both be found at prices of around 66/1 to storm to success, reflecting perceptions among punters that the clubs have squads of similar calibre. This bodes well for Celtic’s aspirations.
Using the betting markets as a barometer for expectation, Celtic may be able to slip under the radar in Europe. This will be a refreshing change from the scrutiny and pressure that comes with domestic matches. Squads of the stature of Chelsea, Sevilla and AC Milan will inevitably expect to reach the business end of the tournament. Celtic may not boast an Eden Hazard, Andre Silva or Gonzalo Higuain, but their squad should be able to comfortably fend off domestic competitors while dreaming of European success.