Putting the Boot In

I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to blog when things aren’t going well. It used to be far easier than blogging about the good times but I suppose when you have so much practice doing something you get good at it eventually.

Well I say good…

There’ll be no third champions league group stage appearance in a row for us sadly, but while the Europa League group stage is still a possibility we’ll have to put those thoughts aside for a bit and focus our attention on retaining the first silverware of the season.

The league may have kicked off first for us, but the League Cup is the trophy they hand out first and of course it’s been running for a month already. We’re spared the group stages due to our European qualifiers, but while the last couple of seasons have seen us enter the second round in midweek it’s a weekend fixture this time out.

That’s because UEFA have eaten up all the midweeks for eight weeks in a row at this time of year.

Partick Thistle are our opponents today, and this first Glasgow derby of the season may well be the unexpected one given Thistle’s demise last season. After their top six finish in our invincible treble season, they finished second bottom last season and lost the playoff to Livingston to become only the second team to slip out the top flight since the introduction of the latest version of the playoff system.

They’ve started second tier life with a mixed bag, losing their opening day fixture against Ayr United before beating Falkirk last weekend. They also lost to Ayr in the League Cup group stages, but wins over Morton, Stenhousemuir and Albion Rovers ensured they progressed as one of the four best runners up.

They also won their Irn Bru Cup fixture against Stranraer 5-0 on Tuesday night, so they seem to be finding their feet for now.

The question for us now is can we find ours?

Defeat in Athens on Tuesday was disappointing not only because it means we won’t be in with Europe’s elite this season but also because of the manner in which it happened. Both goals were easily preventable, as was the away goal last week, but the Celtic defence right now is a shambles.

AEK, like Hearts, Livingston and Rosenborg before them, managed to score with relative ease and despite having far fewer chances than we did. Livingston and Rosenborg both lost 3-1, but Hearts and AEK picked up vital wins despite being second best on the day.

So what’s the problem? There’s a lack of consistency in the availability of the players for one thing. We rarely see the same central defensive pairing, let alone the same back four. Of the players there, all that have featured have have some culpability in the goals we’ve conceded. Tierney, Lustig, Gamboa, Hendry, Simunovic, Ajer… they’ve all been to blame for at least one simple hold somewhere along the line.

And then there’s bad boy Boyata.

Whatever has happened there, Dedryck won’t feature today and has been training with the youths. It’s been suggested he’ll feature again in the first team soon, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he didn’t.

He claimed he was injured in midweek and that’s why he didn’t travel to Athens. The manager said otherwise. There’s a lot to be done to restore trust, and it’s pretty clear who most of the fans trust on this one.

The lineup today will be interesting. At this stage in the previous two seasons we’ve seen the squad used and still won comfortably. This time out I suspect we have a point to prove and may go in stronger, especially given we’re away from home.

Observers are having their fun right now trying to drive a wedge into Celtic. Clearly things aren’t quite as they should be and certain issues need resolved, but it’s hardly a crisis.

Nevertheless, this is a cup competition. There’s no room for error here. If we don’t win today, we lose hold of one of the three trophies that we’ve won in each of the last two seasons. And you can guarantee there’s a line of people just waiting to put the boot in on Celtic even more then we’ve seen in recent days.

It might be the least important tournament, but when you know the record for consecutive trophy wins in Scotland is seven and you currently sit on six, there’s plenty of incentive to ensure you win again.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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