When we went to Germany a couple of weeks ago, I was fearful and really didn’t want that game to come around. Away games in Europe are all too often brutal and depressing, and I was worried that we might have a demoralising performance that would derail the good work we had been doing domestically.
Well, we have a pretty disappointing match over there but my fears domestically were unfounded. Since that 2-0 defeat in Germany, we’ve knocked Hearts out of the league cup and thumped in the league to an aggregate 8-0 score and in between we went up to Dundee and pumped them 5-0 as well. Domestically we’re in our best form since the invincible season.
But now we must turn our attention to Europe once more, and the reverse fixture against Leipzig. The 2-0 defeat may prove pivotal in deciding how this group turns out, and we could really have done with getting a goal over there. If Salzburg run away with this group and everyone beats Rosenborg, as is possible, then there it’s very likely that second place will be decided on the head to head result between ourselves and Leipzig.
We not only need to win tonight, but we need to win handsomely.
A single goal win and they have the better head-to-head. Any two goal win where Leipzig score also gives them the better head-to-head. A 2-0 win would see the head-to-head cancelled out but then it would come down to goal difference and we’d need to hope for Salzburg to dish out a pumping in Austria in the next round of fixtures.
As good as we’re playing domestically, can you really see us winning tonight by three or more goals? Stranger things have happened, but that would seem unlikely.
What is pretty certain is that if we’re to have any chance at all, we need to at least win the game tonight. Do that and we might get lucky in that we play Salzburg last and they could have qualified by then. If we could take something from them, having already beaten Rosenborg away, then we could get that second place.
There’s a lot of work to do then, but the good thing for us is that two of our three games are at home under the lights of Celtic Park.
Oh yes, about those lights…
The much maligned disco lights will be getting their debut tonight before the match. The game kicks off at 8pm, but at 7.45pm we’ll get a ten minute display of what our big summer signing is capable of doing. About time!
I just hope it’s better than the new Europa League anthem. It’s not as bland as the first one, but it’s no Champions League anthem, that’s for sure.
So what about the game itself? Well the good news is that we’ve got Youssouf Mulumbu back from injury. He was one of the better players in Germany and if he gets back into the team we’ll be hoping for something similar. Scott Brown is of course still out, and with Eboue Kouassi out for the season whether we see Mulumbu start might well come down to how we want to deploy Callum McGregor.
McGregor has been one of those players who seems to rise to the occasion in Europe and has chimed in with important goals for us, but domestically he has been fitting in very nicely to the sitting midfielder role. Certainly a lot more than trying to play him out on the wing. Tom Rogic in front of him instead of next to him works a lot better.
Another thing working really well is the Filip Benkovic and Dedryck Boyata partnership. Finally we have a settled central defensive pairing and although it’s great that they’ve been getting clean sheets domestically so far, this will be a real test for them tonight. With Kieran Tierney on the left and Mikael Lustig on the right, the back four is about as settled as it’s been in a long time.
Just need to hope Lustig is more switched on than he has been in recent outings in Europe. Other than pushing Kristoffer Ajer out to an unfamiliar right back role, we’ve not much other option there with Cristian Gamboa being injured.
Leigh Griffiths got the only goal in our first home group match but sadly he’s still missing for this second home game of the group, so once more it will very likely be Odsonne Edouard up top. I’ve expressed concern over how many of these games he can play consecutively on his own up there, but Brendan Rodgers seems to be doing his best to manage that and certainly Edouard has been scoring the goals along the way which has allowed Rodgers to rest him later in the game! That’ll do me again tonight if possible!
We’re going into this match is a far more confident mood now thanks to the domestic performances, and hopefully the crowd will be up for this match too. There’s nothing quite like a European night at Celtic Park, even if it isn’t the Champions League. This is top quality opposition, but if the belief is in the players and in the fans then anything is possible. We’ve seen it plenty of times before, lets make tonight another of those!
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)