Celtic

Celtic vs AIK

, KO: 19:45 Aug 22, 2019, Celtic Park
AIK

WHAT a difference a week can make in football.

Celtic headed into their Champions League qualifier with Cluj at Parkhead in high spirits after a storming start to the Premiership campaign and were expected to finish the job after drawing 1-1 in Romania.

Instead, they crashed to a shock 4-3 loss and all the good will Neil Lennon had built up with a support that had initially doubted his appointment suddenly vanished.

When the Hoops were then taken to extra-time by Championship Dunfermline at home in the Betfred Cup, it looked like a crisis was about to hit Lennon.

James Forrest's deflected winner avoided that nightmare scenario but the heat is definitely on the Parkhead boss heading into their Europa League play-off clash with AIK of Stockholm.

Failing to reach the group stage of Europe's second tier competition is unthinkable for the Celtic support, not to  mention a board who need to service a sizeable wage bill.

But this tie is a potential banana skin and nothing like the gimme Celtic had last season when they faced Alashkert after crashing out of the Champions League at the same stage to AEK Athens.

Like the Hoops, AIK started the campaign in the Champions League qualifiers and only bowed out after losing on away goals to Maribor.

They then saw off Sheriff Tiraspol 3-2 on aggregate to line up this clash with Celtic, doing the hard work on the road with a 2-1 victory in Moldova.

AIK are on a similar level to Cluj and have the advantage of being midway through their domestic season, sitting just a point off the summit, while Lennon's side are still getting up to speed.

Like most others, I backed Celtic to see off Cluj but thought their poor defensive record and the erratic displays of new left-back Boli Bolingoli would see the Romanians score.

My tip of a Celtic win with both teams to score looked set to come up as Lennon's side led twice on the night at 2-1 and 3-2, only for more shocking defending to lead to their undoing.

After Dunfermline also managed to breach that Parkhead defence, both teams to score looks the shout here and it's evens with Sportingbet. Doubling that with a Celtic win increases the odds to 11/4 with Bet365.

Despite my fears about Bolingoli, it was actually his absence that hurt Celtic against Cluj, with Lennon playing his best midfielder, Callum McGregor, at left-back while leaving the Belgian on the bench.

That upset the balance of his side and I can see McGregor being restored to the engine room for this one. He has two European goals to his name already this season and is 8/1 with William Hill for anytime scorer, which seems massively overpriced.

AIK will be hurt by the absence of suspended winger Tarik Elyounoussi who could have done plenty of damage against that porous Celtic defence.

But they will still offer a big threat although Celtic should at least have key defender Kris Ajer available after he made a quick recovery from the injury that forced him off against Dunfermline.

The Norwegian could be forced to play at right-back though with Hatem Abd Elhamed an injury doubt while Craig Gordon will again deputise for the injured Scott Bain in goal.

Veteran AIK midfielder Seb Larsson could be a threat from set-pieces and the former Sweden star boasts five goals this season. He's 15/2 with William Hill for anytime scorer but a yellow card may be a better shout as he has picked up seven bookings this season and will be pitted against wind-up merchant supreme Scott Brown.

Larsson is 5/2 for a card with Unibet which seems good value but they only have prices available for a few AIK stars so there are no odds for Brown.

Lennon ripped into his side for their passive first half against Cluj so I'm expecting Celtic to come flying out the traps here. That suggests an early goal so try 0-29 for the time of the opener at 19/20 with Marathonbet.

This match between Celtic and AIK will be played on Aug 22, 2019 and kick off at 19:45

Celtic vs AIK Betting Tips & Predictions
Celtic win with both teams to score
11/4
SportingBet
Callum McGregor anytime scorer
8/1
William Hill
First goal 0-29 minutes
19/20
Marathonbet

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