Celtic Diary Wednesday September 18
The Champions League group stages begin for Celtic tonight in Milan, where the Glasgow giants will seek to erase the memories of 2007, when Milan triumphed after extra time in the last 16 of the same competition, and last years trip to Italy which saw an exit at the hands of a streetwise Juventus side.
Alessandro Matri, who was in that Juventus side, moved to Milan for £9m over the summer, and he thinks that his Juventus side did little wrong;
“We have to consider the attitude that all the players have on the pitch and Celtic did the same to us on many occasions.
“There were many of their players attacking us and that is normal.
“I remember Gary Hooper was pushing our goalkeeper and that was part of the discussions.
“This is just what happens normally in matches and so I don’t think it should be considered as something extraordinary.”
The off hand way in which he dismissed the grappling tactics of the Turin side show that Celtic should be ready for more of the same from their opponents tonight, which means we need to get to the referee before they do
Jiri Jarosik, who once fell over to win a free kick for Shunsuke Nakamura against Manchester Utd at Celtic Park, sparking what I remember as the loudest ten minutes ever at Celtic Park, wants revenge for that 2007 defeat, as he is still going on about Paolo Maldinis hand costing him a goal.
“I looked at it on the internet recently and it was 100% a penalty. If we had got it we might have won but it is normal in Europe for the referee to help the biggest clubs. ”
” We had no luck that night. Kaka was brilliant, there was nothing we could do to stop his goal. We had to work very hard to close Milan down, especially the midfielders like myself and Neil.
“Now Celtic are playing Milan again and Neil is the manager. I would love it if he could win there. I keep an eye on all my old clubs but I was really pleased to see Celtic do so well last year. “
Fair enough, but that was then, and this is now.
Milan are not the team they were even six years ago. They are struggling with injuries, they are not what you would call “on form “
Celtic have six European games already under their belt, and apart from Joe Ledley and James Forrest, who hasn’t travelled, have no injury worries.
There is a danger Celtic – and the support-will be a little over confident, which considering this is Milan we are playing, and it is being played in Italy. There is , however, a case to suggest that Celtic are facing Milan ” at the right time “, as they struggle to kick start their season, which is all well and good, as long as they don’t kick start it tonight.
Expect Celtic to play the counter attacking game, with Samaras and Boerrigter supporting Stokes and a slightly withdrawn Commons, Brown and Mulgrew may well continue their Scotland midfield pairing, with Lustig, Ambrose , van Dijk and Izzaguerre completing the ten outfield players, Forster, of course, in goal.
Thats if Ledley doesn’t make it, if he does , Izzaguerre may make way for Mulgrew, because he has to play, having given Lennon an apple in training this morning.
The players on the bench will be equally important, if the gameplan is going to rely heavily on pace. Pukki, signed for just this type of game, may actually start ahead of Stokes, given Lennons mistrust of the Irishman in big games, but whoever he goes with, it will be a team effort, and everyone needs to do their bit, whether they start on the pitch or on the bench.
On the recent Etims podcast with Hector and Desi, I predicted 1-1, which should ensure that the score will be anything but, though it really does look like this game will end in a score draw, although , looking at these stats, from kickoff.com
more stats , it says;
” Milan have scored 1 goal or less in 11 of their last 20 home games, going on to win 1, draw 5 and lose 5 of these matches.” and this
” Celtic have scored 1 goal or less in 17 of their last 20 away games, going on to win 0, draw 1 and lose 16 of these matches.”, it seems we might not get any goals at all.
( The games referred to in those stats are Champions League group games, for those who are wondering. and for those who aren’t wondering, as well, I suppose. )
A win tonight would be absolutely fantastic, up there with any European victory, whether Milan are at full strength or not. It would get the tricky away win needed in the group out of the way early, so that with the three home bankers, qualification is achieved.
I may be getting slightly ahead of myself here, but thats what the Champions League is all about. So enjoy it, win lose or draw.
Come on the Hoops
Willie Wallace was the player in yesterdays picture, identified with the character William Wallace, from the film Braveheart, which was loosely based on the life of the Scots warrior.
Today, heres one you might struggle with.