Celtic are in Latvia for tonights Europa League qualifier, and I’m probably not the only one who felt a blast of relief when the draw gave the hoops an away tie.
We just seem to play better in foreign climes, more disciplined, less prone to make mistakes.
Of course, I’ve been wrong before….
One worrying aspect of this game for me is that Riga have been playing regular football since June, and will be way ahead of Celtic in having a settled team and formation, but then again, they could have been playing regular football since Monday morning and they’d still have a more settled team and formation than Celtic, who still seem to be subject to the manager getting up on matchday morning and having an idea about something that he wants to put into practice a couple of hours later, something he’s done fairly regularly since asking Efe Ambrose if a flight back from the African Nations Cup and the party the night before would affect him in that nights game with Juventus…..
So there is always just a little extra, er, excitement when Celtic play in Europe, hence when a result against a “big ” team from a “big ” league goes our way, there tends to be an outbreak of euphoria.
We could do without that excitement, to be fair, tonight.
Or any other night in European competition, as over the last few years that approach has cost the club dearly. Last night, for instance, Ferencvaros planted one foot in the Champions League group stages with a 3-3 away draw in the first leg against old Celtic foes Molde, and there is the usual sense that had Celtic overcome the Hungarians, as we probably should have, then that could have been us.
And given Celtic would have been in pot 3 this year, the possibilities of a memorable European season were probably closer than we think.
Instead, it’s the Europa League, which isn’t as lucrative but should still provide some excitement.
This year, with every game possibly the last game, A run in Europe is not so crucial, as most fans would prefer to see a tenth consecutive title given priority staus, simply because failure would mean at least another decade would pass before we can be in the same position.
In Europe, mistakes can be forgotten and rectified relatively quickly, and this year will be no different.
However, above all, fans just want to get back to the games, even those who can;t make it are beginning to get fed up with the canned applause from empty stadia. Stein was right, without fans football is nothing, and if you try to find audience figures for games you won’t be surprised to note they are down, which explains to an extent why you’ll have trouble finding them.
So, whilst tonights game is important, defeat won’t signal the end of the world. That will come when US president Donald Trumo announces the Christian rapture and he sends both the dead and the living off to meet Christ the Redeemer, despite there being a ruling on crowds of six being allowed to congregate.
European football for fans offers the chance to travel, meet new people, enjoy new cultures and drink themselves into a stupor in strip bars.
Riga sounds like just that place….
That square would be full of Tims today….
Then there’s the nightlife…. post match…
Speaking about the Riga Old Town you definitely will not be disappointed with the nightlife, it`s very lively, sometimes even crazy. A pleasant atmosphere, lots of good bars and clubs, beautiful ladies – everything you ever wanted. On the weekends Riga Old town is one big party, you just must fumble and enjoy it. There are various nightclubs and great bars all around the Old Town, which invite locals and foreigners to party till the sun is shining.
As we already told – Riga Old town is quite compact, so you will be able to visit three, four or even more Riga Pubs, Bars and Clubs each night. This is how the locals like to party, because generally we don’t spend all night in one bar or club, we like to move around and look for more and more parties. Forget about long drives in Riga, everything is so close and taxi in Riga is easy to find and prices are pretty cheap. In the Old Town you totally can went everywhere by walk.
The Riga Old Town is full of bars and clubs and beautiful people, it`s not like any other Old town, it has a special aura, you will see that.
A few years ago, one of my sons had an Estonian girlfriend, and she was always referring to Latvians as being the butt of jokes in the Baltic states as they were of less than average intelligence.
So, cheap beer, plenty of pubs and gullible women.
Sounds like hell on earth.
Glad I’m not going.
The game itself is a bit of an unknown quantity, Riga do well domestically, but failed to overcome Maccabi Tel aviv in the Champions League and dropped into the Europa, where they beat Tore Andre Flo ( are you sure ? -Ed ) after the game was stopped when it rained.
Manager Neil Lennon did his best to sound confident….
“We’ve another busy week ahead of us. We had a good week last week, three wins in seven days, 10 goals, only conceded three, and we’re hoping to keep that going,”
I think we’re still to hit top form, but I’m delighted with the way we’ve negotiated the games and the catch up that we’ve had to do. We’re in a good strong position and we can now concentrate on Thursday’s Europa League game – we really want to get into the group stages now.
“I’m delighted with the players and we’re still embedding the new players in. We started off with back at the beginning of the season and more recently we’ve gone to a three. It takes time and a little bit of adjustment to that, but we’ve won six out of seven in the league now and have drawn the other one. That’s good going and it’s really good consistency.
We’ve got great depth in the squad and it’s important to try and keep players motivated and give them something to look forward to and to also give them incentives. We think long and hard about each selection for every opposition.
“But over time, we will see our most consistent 11 on the pitch. Also, with the amount of games we’ve had in this burst between international breaks, I think it’s important that we do give players the opportunity to play and keep the squad fresh,”
He’s admitting he hasn’t worked out his best eleven yet, or his most effective formation. Which is worrying.
‘We went out to Latvia a day earlier than we might otherwise for these games. The current situation means we’re confined to the hotel, besides going out to training for a light session tomorrow (Wednesday). In normal circumstances, we’d travel out the day before the game, but on this occasion we decided to get over a day earlier. We’ll do our normal preparations in terms of analysis and the players are working as hard as ever behind the scenes,”
I get the feeling he’s making it up as he goes along.
Which, again, is worrying.
He followed up by saying one or two players have delighted him, the full piece is on the official website, and strenuously avoded mentioning any problems.
So, the policy seems to be very much we’ll give it a go, but we’ll see what happens.
With a lot more clearly on his mind, I’d feel better if he just concentrated on the game.
His press conferences of late have seen him ramble about letting crowds back into mathces-not going to happen any time soon-and players , such as Edouard, itching to get back into action, all of which is actually saying nothing with a lot of words.
Maybe he’s saving the serious stuff for the players….
The game starts at 6pm, it’s on Celtic TV and anywhere else you can find it.
The other Scottish sides are also in action tonight, and EBT Radio Scotland will be covering all of them. I’ll be out on the road, so with the good grace of BBC sounds, I might be able to listen in to their Sportsound show which is covering them all.
As ever, I support all Scottish clubs in Europe, but draw the line at cheering for companies….
Yesterday, we had this….