Celtic are in Austria to take on Red Bull Salzburg, a team who last year made of through to the Europa League semi final beating teams like Real Sociedad, Borussia Dortmund and Lazio to get there. They eventually lost that semi final after extra time to Marseille, a team they had beaten in the group stages, but who themselves would go on to lose the final. But that was to Atletico Madrid, and we all know European trophies just live in Spain anyway.
Of course, Marseille beat Leipzig in the quarter final last year too, so it’s funny how we’ve managed to end up in a group as tough as this one.
While we were beating Rosenborg, Salzburg were in Germany beating Leipzig 3-2. They had been 2-0 up at half time thanks to goals from Munas Dabour and Amadou Haidara, but were pegged back to 2-2 before a last minute winner from Fredrik Gulbrandsen ensured that our match has two teams on three points from the opening fixtures.
Salzburg got here the same way we did. As Austrian champions they had been in Champions League qualifying, and although they beat Shkendija in the third round they lost out to Red Star Belgrade in the playoff round and parachuted into the Europa League group stages.
Four years ago, Celtic faced Salzburg at this same point in the same competition. Ronny Deila’s men even earned a decent 2-2 draw in Austria, twice leading the game through goals from Wakaso and Scott Brown, but twice being pegged back. The biggest disappointment that day though was back at home in a certain independence referendum.
The home match sadly was a 3-1 defeat but we’ll revisit that another day.
Salzburg haven’t lost at home since November 2016 in any competition, and we go there with no Tom Rogic, no Filip Benkovic, no Kristoffer Ajer, and an Odsonne Edouard who has declared himself for despite Scott McKenna trying out the Kama Sutra on him in Saturday’s match.
There’s also doubts over Brown which will be of great concern given his leadership on the park usually plays just as big part for us as his abilities as a footballer. If he’s missing that could be a very big loss.
I could go into Celtic’s away record in Europe, but actually it’s not too bad in recent years. A win over Anderlecht, and draws against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Rodgers era followed draws for Deila’s team against Ajax, Fenerbahce, Astra and the aforementioned draw against Salzburg themselves.
We haven’t really been conceding much lately, but we haven’t scored many either. Our last four games have all seen us score just a single goal, with Leigh Griffiths being responsible for three of those and Scott Sinclair chipping in on Saturday. Even before that we didn’t score against St Mirren and only managed one in the derby from Olivier Ntcham. We haven’t score more than a single goal in a match since we beat Suduva 3-0 to qualify for this group stage.
I don’t really see that changing much today, but you never know. I’d love to see use play with a bit more freedom today as the pressure is off a bit. We’re playing a good team, away from home, with three points on the board already. A draw would be a great result here, but I think it’s a performance we really need more.
Solid at the back, creative going forward. Do that and we might even get the result to match.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)