Celtic host Cluj tonight in the second leg of the third round qualifier for the Champions And Assorted Other Teams League.
Technically, by virtue of the away goal, the hoops are ahead in the tie, which is when it all usually goes pear shaped.
However, the odds of victory are still slightly better than average, although it could well be a long night. Cluj are no mugs, and Celtic will have to improve on last weeks performance to be certain of avoiding a drop into the Europa League and a play off against Sherriff Tiraspol or AIK Stockholm.
In one interview, Lennon asked the support to play its part..
“What I want from the crowd is just the noise, like they always bring on a big European night. The players can feed off that.”
Celtic Park can be an intimidating venue for visitors, as long as we stop all this nonsense about being nice to them, and hoping they enjoy the experience.
The big danger is that Cluj get an early goal tonight, which is where the support can do their bit. Intimidation, noise and above all hostility. Not the coin throwing kind, the loud kind.
Dan Petrescue, the Cluj manager, has been at it with the mind games again…
“We need to score and scoring at Celtic Park is not easy. We have looked at all their competitive matches this season and they concede some goals but they create so many chances in every game. The danger is coming from all over the pitch.
“This Celtic team has some very, very good young players. I’m sure in two years’ time they will not be here. They will be at big clubs in the Premier League or Spain.
“I have watched all the games, I have a good eye after 16 years of coaching and 20 years of playing and I am sure of this, these players will go to the top level. That’s why it’s going to be very tough.
“The players who will go to another level will be (Kristoffer) Ajer, (Ryan) Christie for sure, a fantastic player, and (Odsonne) Edouard also. But other players, they have four good players on the wing, and I heard they have six but I haven’t seen them because they are too young.”
That’s a clue as to who will get the attention of Cluj players tonight, but it’s also an indicator that he has certainly done his homework, and that homework will include a section on how he can get a result.
cue the usual nonsense about the great stadium..
Then there was this, which suggests he hasn’t done any homework at all…
The crowd will help them but it’s a great challenge for us and it’s good for the players because none of our players have played here before.
Ovidiu Hoban was in the Hapoel Be’er Sheva side that lost 5-2 in Glasgowa few years ago, yet he’s not been named in the squad for tonight.
For all his harping on about it, he clearly hasn’t asked his players of they know anything about the experience.
Though he kept mentioning the stadium…
“Before we play Maccabi Tel Aviv, I told my players that we have to qualify because we have to go to the best stadium in the world,”
“The players on the pitch were impressed about the stadium and they will be more impressed when the stadium is full.
So, putting ourselves in his shoes, what would you do ?
Long diagonals to the corner, with the midfield in support. That forces Celtic to back pedal and stretches the full backs, who will usually be found anywhere else but at full back. By then cutting the ball back, it creates chances for those racing into the box.
Piece of piss this management lark.
However, Neil Lennon can be quite pragmatic in Europe, and will instruct his defenders to be disciplined, and not to leave space behind them.
One man who will possibly have an important role tonight is the reborn Olivier Ntcham. If given the number ten role, with Brown and MacGregor supporting, he could inflict serious damage, as he looks very good going forward. that could mean a role for Christie on the left, as he has the energy to support Boli, with Forrest on the other flank, and Edouard doing what he does.
Biton and Ajer look the best bet for central defence, a combination of Ajers strength and Bitons guile may yet prove to be our strongest paring, which leaves the two new guys at full back.
Piece of piss this management lark.
Celtic should be too strong for the Romanians, but nerves will play a part, and we can only hope that experience plays a bigger part.
If Celtic play as they can, we should be okay.
However, lets remember that the important thing is to get through, and if that means standing three deep on the goal line, then thats we we must do.
Lennon is more than aware of that… and although he is more than happy with the form and confidence of his players, he urges that wee bit of caution..
“It’s a balance. The goals give you confidence but you can’t be over confident. There was enough in the game last week for me to think we can score and hurt them when we get the ball into certain areas.
“That gives me encouragement but we look like we concede, too. The onus is on us to take the game to them as much as we can.
“We try to get the ball into forward areas a little but quicker, shoot more and shoot quicker. Sometimes we were looking for the perfect goal but every goal is perfect in its own way.
It certainly won’t be dull…
Elsewhere, and there’s at least £25m quid burning a hole in the pockets of fans and media alike, with several names being thrown about as possible additions to the squad.
And by the way, the money is in the bank…
We are aware that all of the money will not be spent on players, and we are also aware that some of the players we would want to spend it on are asking a little more than the club thinks they are worth to move to the sun kissed shores of the Clyde.
Throw in the policy of only signing players that we-or trusted advisors -know, and you’ll see why its more likely that Greg Taylor will be at Celtic before the kids go back to school, as indeed, may Scott McKenna.
There’s a reason Jack Hendry hasn’t gone anywhere yet…
This swap and cash deal was touted back in January, but didn’t happen for a number of reasons, the main one being that Brendan couldn’t find the debit card, which wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as Peter had changed the PIN.
Other names being tossed around include Yannick bolasie, a winger at Everton. He’s thirty, and kind of lost his way on Merseyside after a bright start. But at thirty, he doesn’t fit the template, and this looks to be nonsense considering his wages and the fact that wingers are plentiful at Paradise.
Birger Melling of Rosenborg caught the eye of the support in the double header against them last term, but again the Norwegian full back is unlikely to be a serious option, and any specualtion is more down to fan desire than actual interest.
If we are looking to add a wee bit of experience to a relatively youthful back line, we could do worse than talk to Gareth Barry, who is out of contract and would add a wee bit of calmness and maturity to the squad…
One that might not be nonsense, however, is Robert Gumny, of Lech Poznan. the right back has been the subject of claims in the Polish media that link him with a move to Celtic…and thats not the only reason it might be a goer..
Journalist Glos Wielko said;
But Robert would see another club from the British Isles, namely the Scottish Celtic. However, this is not a club from the leading European league, but it could tempt Gumny to play in the Champions League, and in addition the Scots are able to meet the financial expectations of the footballer and Lech Poznan.
Maybe he’s waiting to see if we qualify first…
Yesterday, we pondered this poor fellows circumstances..