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 By Derek Bilton

Celtic poised to kick off UCL qualifying with a comfortable win over Linfield

Scott Brown lifts the Scottish Cup after Celtic had beaten Aberdeen at Hampden Park.
Celtic should be focused after learning their lesson against Lincoln Red Imps last year in UCL qualifying.

Here's a look at the best bets in the Champions League and Gold Cup ...

Celtic to learn lessons

Celtic hit the Champions League qualifying trail this week when they face Linfield on Friday.

The Bhoys ended the 2016-17 campaign on a 33-game unbeaten run, with their last defeat coming in Europe against Barcelona way back on Nov. 23. 

However, Brendan Rodgers will demand his team give Linfield the respect they deserve, especially considering what happened during his first game as Celtic boss at the same stage of the competition last season. That day, Celtic slumped to a humiliating 1-0 defeat to Gibraltar minnows Lincoln Red Imps, a team that included a taxi driver and a fireman in their ranks. They won the second leg 3-0 and to be fair to Rodgers he had a fantastic first season as manager thereafter, but that result will definitely go down as one of the worst in Celtic's history with diehard Hoops fans.

This season, Celtic will have three obstacles to overcome to get back into the Champions League proper, starting with NIFL Premier League champions Linfield. Managed by David Healy -- Northern Ireland's all-time record scorer -- Linfield won the domestic double last season after beating Coleraine 3-0 in the Irish Cup final and they'll be roared on by a vociferous home crowd at Windsor Park. Despite home advantage though the bookmakers do not fancy their chances one bit with bet365 listing them at a whopping 20/1 chance to win the first leg. 

You can understand the bookies' scepticism. Celtic of course went unbeaten last season in the SPL, eventually winning the title by 30 points. For their part, Linfield only scraped past San Marino's La Fiorita 1-0 on aggregate in the first qualifying round, so if the Hoops are focused here they should win handily. A 4-0 result is a 6/1 shout with bet365 and could be worth backing if Celtic unleash the likes of Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair on the Northern Irish champions in Belfast. 

Mexico's B team should still have too much firepower for Jamaica but don't count on a clean sheet from El Tri.

Jamaica to pose problems for Mexico

Away from the club scene, the CONCACAF Gold Cup continues where on Friday tournament favourites Mexico take on Jamaica. El Tri are well below full strength for this event but started the tournament well by rolling El Salvador 3-1 on Sunday.

Elias Hernandez was the star of the show in their Gold Cup opener, scoring one and supplying two assists in San Diego. They face a Jamaican side who also won their opening game, coming through 2-0 against Curacao. It all means the winner of this Group C fixture should end up winning the group but while Mexico are favourites, the result is far from the foregone conclusion some experts think it might be. Boss Juan Carlos Osorio is currently serving a touchline ban and his team look defensively fragile, having managed to keep just one clean sheet in their last 10 games. 

Jamaica like to get forward in numbers and with this in mind, Mexico to win and both teams to score could be the way to bet at 9/4 with bet365.

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