Saturday 30th July. 6PM. Sky Sports 1
The pre-season International Champions Cup is up and running across the globe, and the pick of Saturday’s action sees the champions of Scotland and Spain head to Ireland for what should be a cracking contest at the Aviva Stadium.
Irish fans will be licking their lips in anticipation as the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez take to the field. Meanwhile, the strong Celtic following ensures that Brendan Rodgers men will gain a fantastic reception too.
It should be a fantastic way to build the excitement ahead of 2016-17. Bring it on!
Barcelona To Start Season In Style
Despite clinching the domestic double, the Catalonian giants will have been bitterly disappointed at not winning the Champions League, especially as fierce rivals Real Madrid became kings of Europe for an unprecedented 11th time. But brilliant Barca will be raring to go this term, and will be out to hit the ground running in this opening pre-season runout.
Doubts were raised over Lionel Messi’s potential appearance, but it has been confirmed that the Argentina superstar will feature. Meanwhile, fans in Dublin will additionally be treated to Luis Suarez, Arda Turan and a host of other Barcelona superstars.
The nature of the fixture may result in a slight lack of urgency, but Barcelona’s possession based dominance should be a treat on the eyes. While they might not repeat the 6-1 demolition of their last head-to-head meeting, the Liga champions will be fully expected to win.
If they play to anything like their potential, they will. Let’s hope the freedom of non-competitive football leads to an evening of entertainment.
Celtic Building Momentum For Wednesday
For Celtic, the chance to play in a city that loves them will be great, especially as it offers an opportunity to face off against one of Europe’s elite. But don’t be fooled; Rodgers will already have one eye focused on Wednesday’s crucial Champions League qualifier.
Following the 7,000 mile round-trip to Kazakhstan in midweek, the Scottish champions will be excused for being a little off the pace. Likewise, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Bhoys do rest a few star players too. They will still want to put on a show, but the priorities have to lie with Astana.
Celtic did famously beat Barcelona in a Champions League match where they had just 16% possession, and are likely to enjoy very little of the game in this one. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic chance for Rodgers to assess how far his team are off the pace.
They won’t be expecting to cause an upset, but stranger things have happened. Most importantly, though, it needs to set them up for Wednesday. As long as it does that, the Bhoys will be happy.
Barcelona v Celtic Betting
Unsurprisingly, it’s Barcelona who enter Saturday’s showdown as the overwhelming favourites as Enrique’s men are priced just 4/11 with Bet365. Celtic are 13/2 outsiders while the draw can be backed at 4/1.
It might be Barcelona’s first warm up of the campaign, but it shouldn’t take long for the global superstars to make their mark. The Spanish champions are likely to stamp their authority on proceedings from the kick-off, and should break the deadlock long before the interval.
Given that Celtic will have the bulk of their attention cast towards Astana, that should enable Enrique’s men to see out an easy victory.
As a pre-season contest anything could happen, but the firepower of Messi and co should be too much for Celtic while it would also be fitting if Suarez scores against Rodgers’ new side.
Having said that, we do think the SPL outfit will grab a consolation in front of their Irish fans. Therefore, we’re backing a correct score as our outside selection.