When Is Red Bull Not Red Bull?

Another away game in Europe. Do we have to? Can’t we just enjoy things being better domestically for a little while?

Ten goals in the last two games. Five times the woodwork was hit on Saturday against Hibernian. That game was so good we’re even talking about how good Hibs were and their goalkeeper was in team of the week even despite conceding four goals!

Alas, we’re all coming down to an Earth with a bump again all too soon. That’s not me being negative, that’s just reality.

All too often we’ve seen Celtic go away from home in Europe and turn in one or more of the following. Giving that ball away easily as if it’s a hot potato. Conceding an early goal. Getting a man sent off. Defending like the players have only just met.

Maybe today will be different? Don’t bet on it.

First, history is against us. We’ve never won in Germany, ever. Dortmund, Cologne, Munich, Monchengladbach, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Bremen and Zwickau. We didn’t even score in Germany until Alan Thompson and Chris Sutton in 2003.

For those who remember history, Zwickau was our first visit to German soil and it actually saw us go to East Germany in the mid-70s. Leipzig, our destination today, was also in East Germany back then.

RB Leipzig didn’t exist then though. They weren’t “founded” until 2009, twenty years after the reunification of Germany. I have Celtic jerseys at home that are older than that!

Leipzig’s rise has been a bit of a story around Europe for a while. Although not strictly tied to Red Bull beyond a sponsorship deal, they are owned by people who happen to work for Red Bull. It’s all very dodgy but within the rules set out by UEFA so they can indeed be in the same group as Red Bull owned Salzburg.

I put “founded” in quotes because technically they were founded in the same way the current Airdrieonians were in 2002. Where then Airdrie United bought over Clydebank and changed them, RB Leipzig came from SSV Markranstädt, a club founded in East Germany shortly after the Soviets took over. It’s slightly more complicated than that, but go read the Wikipedia page if you really care!

RB Leipzig started in the German 5th tiger in 2009/10 and by 2016/17 they were in the top flight. Not quite as quick as the Red Bull guys would have liked, but they got there in the end. They did do well that the following season they ended up playing Champions League football, finishing third behind Besiktas and Porto and dropping into the Europa League. There they beat Napoli and then Zenit St Petersburg who had of course knocked Celtic out the previous round. They eventually lost to the losing finalists Marseille in the quarter finals, but returned to Europe this season in the Europa League directly.

Yes, RB Leipzig are the only team in our group that aren’t champions and therefore came through the regular Europa League qualifying rounds. BK Hacken of Sweden, Universitatea Craiova of Romania, and Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine were beaten in the qualifying rounds, with a 3-2 defeat at home to Red Bull Salzburg preceding a 3-1 win away to Rosenborg.

Top quality opposition backed by money, in a country where we’ve never won previously, with our record of poor performances away from home in Europe. Is that enough doom and gloom? No? Okay, let’s look at our squad then.

James Forrest has played well these last couple of games and his link up with Tom Rogic has been terrific. Well, Forrest is suspended and Rogic hasn’t travelled.

We’ve only two strikers, Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard. Griffiths is still injured so we’d better hope nothing happens to Edouard.

Filip Benkovic and Dedryck Boyata is looking like a good partnership in the centre of defence. Pity Benkovic is a doubt.

And then there is our Captain, Scott Brown. Having missed out before the international break, he hobbled off again against Hibernian and will now miss the next three weeks ruling him out of everything until the next international break. The double headers against Leipzig and Hearts could be crucial in our season and he won’t be playing any of them.

We can’t even bring in Mulumbu as he’s injured too.

That’s really not good. In big games like this you want your big players and yet here we are missing quite a few. How do we fill all those gaps in the midfield? Mikey Johnston and Eboue Kouassi?! Lewis Morgan? Ryan Christie? I’m not sure I can even guess.

Stranger things have happened and I’ll be hoping they do tonight, but the odds are massively stacked against us this evening. Getting anything out of this game will be a terrific achievement.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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