Lisbon. Oh Lisbon. If ever there was a city linked to Celtic, it’s you.
Its the 5th group game of the Champions League tonight and Celtic face Benfica. The local side need a win to ensure they can overtake Celtic and Celtic need a draw ( with a Barcelona result against Spartak Moscow) to ensure they are through to the knock-out stages with a game to spare.
As David Colemans puppet used to spray on Spitting Image “Truly Remarkable”.
The fact that we are even surprised should be a surprise in itself. Lennys Lhads have come on leaps and bounds since the start of last season and Braga seems such a long time away given our recent trips to Sweden and Russia and of course that last minute defeat in Barcelona. With a European confidence not seen since the heady Blessed Martin days, this young Celtic side ( and management) have shaken up what was though to be an insurmountable Group. Well done Lenny for making people all over the world sit up and notice our club yet again. Oh and Hello Snoop!
The game itself will really test the young Manager but he will have nothing to fear after the recent defeat of Barcelona at Fortress Paradise. Fraser Forster will hopefully have another great game in Europe and on the flanks we should see Matthews and Lustig facing the pacy Salvio and very clever Lima. The solid Kelvin Timber Wilson is in great form so we should be steady enough at centre back even if he is facing the impressive Cardozo. Mr Cool aka Efe Ambrose will be alongside Wilson and will be expected to block attacks as well as bring the ball out occassionally from defence when the Portuguese pressure isnt too intense.
In Midfield, the sickbay will have been working overtime to ensure Scott Brown can make it as his leadership and engine could prove vital against a keen and very fit Benfica side. Big Victor will be sat in front of centre backs and hopefully he can take care of Maxi Rodriguez and clear any danger while avoiding any yellow or red cards which could affect the final game versus Spartak. Joe Ledley missed out at Paw Broons Aberdeen defeat and should be fit for this massive clash. James Forrest wont make it and Kris Commons will get the nod if his hamstring has survived a scare from the weekend, if not a rejig involving Kayal\Sammi\Watt\Miku could take place. Charlie Muldini should make up the midfield 5 and its hoped he can make a set piece come good with Ambrose, Wanyama, Ledley and of course Big Sammi looking to get on the end of any teasing crosses from our Chuck.
Samaras is in the European form of his celtic life and this could be 5 games on the bounce away for a super Sammi goal. Hair, eyes, toes, legs and fingers crossed it can happen. It will take as much concentration for all the Celts tonight but Sammi has another massive night. His job will be a lonely one, holding the ball up, running channels and of course trying for some galloping runs towards the opposition whenever he gets the chance. The chances may be few but Celtic have shown they can play counter attack and will be prepared to capitalise at eny opportunity presented to them in Lisbon.
The subs bench should be a busy affair and depending on the game could raise more questions than answers. With Lassad, Watt and Miku on form and Dylan McGeough getting some game time at Aberdeen, do we have any defensive minded players available bar Kayal should we look to survive any end of game onslaughts from our hosts? We will use all 3 subs tonight, thats for sure and Gary Hooper has trained over in Lisbon so might even see some game-time.
As for Benfica, its win or bust. They face Barca in their final game and know that they will need to go for it tonight. If Celtic can withstand the pressure unlike a few years ago, then this mob could lose heart and thats where players like Sammi are at their best. Manager Jorge Jesus, his players and 65’000 fans in Estádio da Luz will try and get passed Celtic with a footballing style that is quicker than the calculated Barcelona approach but we have nothing to fear given our performaces thus far in this Group.
Just weather the storm and then unleash hell Celtic, simples!
In Lenny We Trust.
Benfica 1 : 1 Celtic
PS. Good Luck to a group of Gay Friends of Etims who have went over to Portugal. Look out for The Lisbion Lions on your travels. They have t-shirts and everything!
PPS. Hows about this picture from PolishTurnstile of CelticFC for inspiration for tonight?