It’s only the back of August but already this season is looking like a bit of a mess. Somehow we’ve managed to do that from a position of strength which saw us win an invincible treble, then back to back trebles, then a treble treble despite tripping ourselves up many times along the way.
Despite last season, we seem to be making all the same mistakes again and then adding in some more just for good measure.
It would be terrible if Celtic’s history wasn’t full of this same kind of thing. We got to Seville and then didn’t kick on in the same way our closely fought opponents went on to win the big cup the following season. We stopped the ten and then lost our manager and had a bonus row. We won a centenary double and then barely won a thing for the next decade. We brought through the quality street gang and let most of them slip away by not treating them properly.
I could keep going, but let’s focus on the present.
Having lost out to Cluj in Champions League qualifying, we now have the difficult task of getting past AIK Stockholm in the Europa League playoff round if we want to have European football for the rest of the year.
I say difficult task because according to the UEFA coefficient system, AIK Stockholm are better than Cluj!
After last Tuesday’s exit where we played a midfielder at left back, we narrowly squeaked past Championship side Dunfermline Athletic after extra time in the League Cup. Great preparation for this evening, an extra thirty minutes of football in an already busy schedule against a team we should have seen off comfortably.
With confidence in our new left back pretty low, have we brought in an alternative yet? No, of course not. Just to add to that, our one and only right back is an injury doubt so we’re going into this match with no full backs whatsoever.
Remember, we shipped four goals at home in Europe last week. But for some reason our manager thinks we should be happy that we scored three. Sorry Neil, we needed to win that game and the last I checked four was bigger than three.
We need a good result tonight for any number of reasons. Exiting from Europe altogether at this stage is unthinkable. We need a good win to take to Sweden next week, and we need a good win to restore all the lost faith we have across the board.
Okay, maybe not all of it. That will take time and a bit more action in the transfer market, and even then we’ve already blown the Champions League target anyway.
So what are we up against? Well we’re three games into our domestic season while AIK are in the middle of theirs. Currently sitting third in the Swedish League, AIK are four points behind leaders Djurgarden and a point behind Malmo.
There’s a name is rather forget at this stage. Cluj is still fresh in the mind, but in the last few years we’ve lost to AEK Athens, Maribor and of course Malmo.
Legia doesn’t count, regardless of what you might have blocked from your mind.
That’s a bunch of teams we easily outspend and yet each of them deservedly knocked us out of Champions League qualifying. Losing occasionally in this manner is football, losing four out of six seasons in this manner is truly bad management. And I don’t just mean by Lennon, Deila and Rodgers given the gambling that the board have done at this same time of each season.
AIK are here for the same reason we are – they also failed in Champions League qualifying. A 4-3 aggregate win over Avan Academy of Armenia in the first round was followed by a 4-4 away goals defeat to Maribor in the second round. That dropped them into the third qualifying round of the Europa League where they overcame Sheriff Tiraspol 3-2 on aggregate. Three close ties clearly, but still enough to find them in the same position as ourselves.
Tarik Elyounoussi is AIK’s top scorer this season and if that name sounds familiar it’s because his cousin Mohamed scores twice against us for Molde a few seasons ago. Tarik is suspended for tonight though so hopefully that plays into our hands and no one else chimes in with an away goal.
Of course the other name you might recognise is that of the AIK number 7, Larsson. Okay, so it’s Sebastian rather than Henrik but that’s still an experienced player from English football who has managed to get six goals this season for his current club. Chinedu Obasi and Henok Goitom are the other strikers who could pose a threat tonight.
This game isn’t the one we wanted to be playing this week, but here we are. Now we have to go out and win it and make the best of the position we’re in. Because I’m already fed up writing about all the negatives going on at the moment.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)