After surprising a few experts with a 1-0 win over highly rated Zenit at Celtic Park last Thursday, the hoops are out to do it again tonight in St Petersburg.
Well, the result doesn’t matter in a sense as long as Celtic emerge victorious over the two games, and even thats possibly secondary to the players giving it one hundred per cent.
Most analysts cite the winter break as the reason for a somewhat lethargic performance from the Russian club last week, but all of them acknowledge that Celtic took advantage of that. What they haven;t acknowledged is that Celtic were excellent, and perhaps as a result haven’t been given the credit for what was achieved.
So, on to tonight..
Well, boss , whats the plan ?
“We would want to score,”
“I think that’s more the point. Our idea is to go and win the game. If we can’t win it, okay, try not to lose it. That’s key. We believe we can score and that’s what we want to do.
players punish you.
“Last week we never had that. We just had one moment where they got down the side and crossed it and Dorus [De Vries] made a good save. Apart from that we defended very well. If we can do that and
attack well alongside that, we believe we will score.”
“It’s important that you stay calm. No matter how it goes, we are always going to be in the game. When the group are together and focused, we are playing well. It gives us a great chance but we respect it’s a tough game.
“We don’t have to be perfect to win the game but we know we need to be at a high level. Of course, Zenit are going to be motivated after we dominated every aspect of the game last week. They will probably be
disappointed with their performance,
Fair enough. We’re going to try to win the game, or at least not to lose it.
Hardly inspiring, but certainly not lacking in common sense.
How about some inspiring stuff, just to get the lads rocking and the fans rolling ?
“If we can play at the level we played in the first game we can be a match for any team.
“Of course there will always be an expectancy on the other team because of their standing and probably the quality they have.
“We were near perfect in the first game. I’m hoping if we play to that level again over here then we’ve got a great opportunity to go through.
“We played and concentrated very well. When we do that we can match a lot of teams.
So, how does he go about it ?
I’d suggest exactly the way he went about it last week, with Sinclair, Rogic and Musonda on the bench if needed to win the tie, and Hendry if we need a third centre half to close it down.
The Russians have to score, so everyone will have to put in a shift defending, the key to winning the game, as far as I’m concerned, lies in Dembele holding up the long and usually acurate Des Vries kicks, at least until someone gets there to help out, or in Forrest and Tierney taking the pressure of with runs to the half way line and beyond, like Didier Agathe used to.
Rodgers may not have sounded inspiring in the words above, but there was a lot of sense in what he said.
Especially this bit..
It’s important that you stay calm. No matter how it goes, we are always going to be in the game.
The clean sheet last week , and even the single goal victory is crucial. An away goal tonight will make it very difficult for Zenit to retain any kind of discipline or patience.
And if its early, you’ll see their shoulders drop instantly.
What you won;t see is captain Scott Brown let his shoulders drop. He’s a bit of a battler, as they say, and latched on to his reminisces about the last trip to Russia, is a very telling sentence..
“The last time we played a Russian team – against Spartak – it was one of the best.
“It was us winning on penalties and Tommy jumping on top of us in the celebrations was something special. If we get through against Zenit it will be right up there with that night. That was an emotional one, getting us in to the Champions League.
“If we can get to the last 16 this year it would be fantastic for the club.
“It would be a big achievement because you see some of the teams that are in this competition at this stage. There’s the likes of Atletico Madrid in there but we need to get through this one first.”
“You could see how much it means to the manager last week,”
“It showed he loves the club and he believes in us. We played well on the day and everything felt right for us.
“Even things like the Europa League balls are fantastic. It was one of those nights. No one could quite believe it when he scored, and we were all over each other in the celebrations.”
“We’ll be fine. We just need to get back to killing teams off and doing what we have been doing for a while now.
“We need to do it against Zenit, but it was a good performance in the first leg, with the ball and the way we pressed. We put a top quality team under pressure and if we can do that against them then we can do it in the SPFL.
“We need to get back to doing the hard stuff instead of thinking the games are going to be easy.”
There, I think we have it.
Rodgers thinks he’s been complacent, the players now realise they have, and its time to rock and roll, starting tonight.
How far can we go in Europe ? Who knows ?
Robert Pires has an inkling though..when he was asked who were the favourites for the tournament..
Atletico and Arsenal are the favourites, for me this is the final in Lyon,”
They both have a lot of experience, especially in the Champions League.
“They just need to avoid each other and Celtic if they want to face each other in the final.”
“I love Celtic, it is not easy for any team, especially in Celtic Park, the atmosphere is amazing,”
“When you are a player, inside, playing against Celtic, it is a great atmosphere, it is still very close to the pitch, maybe only Liverpool has a similar atmosphere.”
“That’s why it is very difficult to win in Celtic Park.”
That’s that then. Lyon it is.
What i noticed about that wasn’t what Pires said, but what Olivia Leigh said in her “opinion 2 at the foot of her article, on Thisisfutbol.com, the badly spelt international site…
Pires may have only played at Celtic Park once he was retired, in Stiliyan Petrov’s charity mach in 2013, but Arsenal and Atletico Madrid should take notice of his advice. The Bhoys weren’t expected to beat Zenit at Celtic Park, but that’s exactly what they did. Brendan Rodgers’ side may face a difficult task getting a result in Russia but with them having a 1-0 lead from their first meeting, then they’ve given themselves a good chance. Rodgers knows that his performance as Hoops boss will be judged on how his side perform in the Europa League in the second half of the season, and will no doubt have a plan for the game in Russia.
He has. He’s going to try to win the game, or at least not to lose it. We covered that at the top of the page.
And perhaps that will be good enough…..
Elsewhere, and it has transpired that a club over on the dark side of town has secured more than they said they had secured when they had to apply for a payday loan…
Around £6m secured against a £3m loan…
Food for thought follows from a fairly wise man…
Imagine you wanted to boot someone out of a company but can only do so by forcing an Admin & rescue plan – but you don’t want to be seen to trigger an Admin. What to do? Why not take out a mental loan, give the lender the right to appoint, default, & then sit back and wait? Hmmm.
Or, you could just raid the bank accounts of your support, like you have been doing for the last six years…
No wonder they are stressed and uptight most of the time.
When you feel unloved and unwanted there can be an edge to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and your health, both physical and mental can suffer.
Anyone remember the smash hit childrens tv series Pipkins ?
The one with the alcoholic hare ?
Remember the piglet character ?
Well, look at what happened to him…
Ah, well, at least they’ve still got their songs..
Caption competition from yesterday …