Many of this seasons blog introductions have referenced the roller coaster emotion of following Celtic and this week proved no different with a heartbreaking defeat in Barcelona followed up by a shambolic performance against Kilmarnock.
None more so than Fraser Forster who had an inspired night in the Camp Nou, very reminiscent of a young David Marshall in 2004. He proved again what a prospect he really is and showed how comfortable he now is on the big stage. Full marks to the big Geordie on his remarkable progress over the last few seasons and another huge credit to Lenny for the belief shown in him.
Now, at this point I am going to don my tin hat and buck the trend by stating that I was a little disappointed that we didn’t try and be slightly more adventurous in this game. I honestly felt that if we could have made more inroads into the Barca half and won a few more set pieces then we could have caused them no end of trouble with the height advantage.
Using the four midfield 4 that we did meant that it would always be a struggle to get up the park in numbers and once Samaras picked up his injury then our most potent threat was removed from the game.
This view is not to detract in any way from the achievement of the team and the colossal performance that we witnessed. I would have only tweaked the team slightly and changed one player (Commons for one of the midfield) but I just would have loved to see what problems we might have caused a weak Barca defence.
The reality may well have been a heavy defeat if Lenny had chosen to concede a bit more space to Barca by using a more attacking formation. We would also need to get possession of the ball first before being able to attack and this was much easier said than done on Tuesday. Also, once Samaras went off then this plan was probably doomed to failure as Forrest does not have anywhere near the presence of Samaras in these games.
Ultimately though, it was a magnificent effort from the players to push this team to the last minute of the game and every player who took part can give themselves enormous credit. Forster, Wilson and Ambrose especially were incredible and this was reflected with the inclusion of two of them in UEFA’s team of the week.
The players must take huge confidence from their performance in this game and hopefully they will look forward to getting revenge in the return game next week. Barca will probably offer even more of a threat as Celtic look to take the game to them in front of our incredible home support, so it promises to be another long and emotional night and I cannot wait for it.
A special mention also to the bhoys and ghirls who were in Barcelona and made such a huge noise throughout the game (and afterwards) and conducted themselves with distinction once again in Europe.
BrummieBhoy Internet Bampot MOM award for Barcelona game goes to Fraser Forster.
As is the Glasgow Celtic way, there is always a fall lurking behind every highlight and this came in full force when we returned to domestic action against Kilmarnock on Saturday, a team that were involved in 3 of our most memorable games last season, for a variety of reasons.
Lenny had spoken before the game about freshening up the team and nobody would have argued with this approach, given the effort put in by the players against Barcelona. Miku, Kayal and Matthews were given a start and with Commons and Forrest in the team it seemed certain that we would line up 4-4-2.
However, once the game had started we appeared to have to set up in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond formation. My first thoughts on this were to question the role of Forrest as he is only really suited to playing as a traditional winger and why we needed Ambrose as a defensive midfielder at home against Kilmarnock. Also, why was Tony Watt not included after being so impressive against St Mirren last week.
Still, the team was more than strong enough to take care of this game and I was especially keen to see what Miku could offer from the start after expressing his disappointment at lack of game time. Sadly this turned out to be a classic post Europe hangover match with the team putting in one of the worst performance I can remember from a Celtic team in the last 10 years.
You always get games where we struggle to create opportunities or miss chances but I have never seen a game where the quality of passing was so poor throughout the team, and I am only talking about 10 yard passes to team mates.
Killie came with a simple plan, 4 at the back, 3 deep in the centre of midfield and 2 wide players to support Sheridan when they broke. We will see plenty of this at Parkhead this season, Aberdeen were very unfortunate to miss out on a draw playing the same was back in August, and we have to be clever enough to vary our play to get through such packed defences.
Unfortunately, almost every single player was badly out of touch and we saw very few chances for the home side. There was no cohesion throughout the team and we lacked a single player who could spark the crowd, or the play on the pitch, into life.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the game was every time we managed to get the ball wide, the player on the ball instinctively turned back inside and ran straight back into a wall of Killie players. When James Forrest finally started taking on the full back in the second half, he almost immediately created a goal for Gary Hooper but after this the final ball was often poor and Killie went unpunished.
Celtic did have a great chance to open the scoring when Miku found Ledley in the box but he judged the shot horribly and sent a good chance wide. Then shortly before half time we had a calamitous own goal after terrible play between Matthews and Ambrose and some indecision by Forster presented the easiest of finishes for former Celt Cillian Sheridan.
Hooper was introduced at half time and could have brought Celtic level as detailed earlier. However, after this the anticipated charge on the Killie goal never materialised and it was actually the opposition who had a great chance to go further ahead when Dayton was denied by a superb Forster save.
The respite did not last long though and a clumsy challenge gave Kilmarnock a penalty, well converted by Liam Kelly in what would have been a great personal moment for the player following the tragedy he suffered after last years cup final.
Celtic did get the ball in the net through Izzaguire but this was ruled out for offside and then Watt missed a good chance from 4 yards, blazing the ball over the bar. McCourt came on and offered some invention to the team but this was one of those games where we would have still been waiting to score even if we played until 10pm.
BrummieBhoy Internet Bampot MOM award for Kilmarnock game goes to Paddy McCourt.
As we look forward to the visit of St Johnstone tomorrow, I would normally be guessing which fringe players might be included in a League Cup fixture. However, it seems certain that Lenny will go with a strong side in order to return to winning ways.
Saturday was a real chance for the likes of Miku and Forrest to show their worth for a regular place but neither did themselves justice, Miku in particular having a poor game and his petulant exit from the pitch will win him no favours with the gaffer.
I also hope to see the real Ambrose return tomorrow and not the Oliver Tebilly impersonator that had sneaked onto the pitch on Saturday. I expect the line up to look something like this:
Forster; Lustig, Wilson, Ambrose, Izzaguire; Commons, Ledley, Wanyama, Mulgrew; Hooper & Watt. Prediction – 2-0 win for Celtic (Watt 2).
Sunday then sees the team travel to Tannadice to play Dundee United, one of my favourite away fixtures of the season. With typical timing we are seeing a mini revival from United which should make for a tough fixture, but this is what the team needs to get properly prepared for the return clash with Barcelona next week.
Liam (twitter @BrummieBhoy)