Midfielder Joe Ledley, probably the man most missed at the moment, has predicted that Celtic will bounce back after the defeat in Perth on Saturday. The talismanic welshman has dismissed claims that the team has become a bit complacent with the absence of a strong challenge from Rangers.
“I wouldn’t say that. we just didn’t turn up and it wasn’t good enough. The manager made it perfectly clear what we didn’t do but i think everyone knows it. We didn’t win the battle and do the ugly stuff to earn the right to playand we need to start doing that. we started well but didn’t keep going.” He continues in the same vein for a couple of days, with a liberal sprinkling of words such as “disappointment”, “determined” and “bloody defenders playing like they’d just met on the bus on the way to the game”
Alright, perhaps not the last one.
Paul Hartley, in a blatant “If you need a new coach i’m ready” plea has said that Celtic can do well in the champions league group, using words like “special” “great atmosphere” and leaving his phone number at the ticket office every day.
Both players actually have a point though. Celtic didn’t fight in the midfield areas on saturday, in fact , worryingly there is a tendency to cede ground in that area, and Hartley also added that celtic have now learned to win away in europe. Perhaps a tad optimistic when you’re heading to moscow, Lisbon or that other team with the ridiculous day glo strip, but he has a point, and surely we can face the group with if not confidence, then a genuine sense of optimism.
Someone else quite optimistic about Celtics chances is former striker and Portuguese fruitbat Jorge Cadete. He reckons that Benfica are a weakened side without their captain, also a fruitbat who nutted the referee in a game the other day. They will have problems in defence without him, and the sale of a couple of midfielders last month means that they are not the side perhaps we expect them to be. Well, if Jorge says so….
Celtic will be without key players-who would have thought that Samaras would ever be described thus, and with Joe Ledley also missing its certainly not going to be easy. If they really do have defensive issues over in Lisbon, then tomorrow in Glasgow it will probably finish 5-5.
An important man tomorrow will be referee Nicola Rizzoli. (I’ve checked. despite the girly name , it is a man. they do that a lot in Italy, which might explain their pre-occupation with washing their hair and shouting a lot.)
Nicola is an architect who has been refereeing Serie A games since 2002, and was promoted to Grade A in 2007. He refereed the England -france game over in Donetsk during the Euros, and his lack of “fairness”” prompted former referee Graham Poll to claim “I was left wondering how fair the Italian was to roy hodgsons side-” Rizzoli booked two english players for “late and reckless challenges ” but didn’t book a Frenchman for “blocking ” one of Steven Gerrards runs. Poll also didn’t like “his flamboyant gestures and dramatic posture”
Rizzoli has also a reputation for telling players to get on with it, which should be handy against a Portuguese team. He actually sounds a decent ref, having been mentored by the great Pierluigi Collina. Poll, of course is famous for booking a Croatian player three times in one game, and yet is still asked for his opinion on refereeing matters down south. And we thought we had it bad in Scotland.
Its all well and good looking forward to Europes premier club competition, but the real pressure is on rookie boss ally McCoist in the Ramsdens Cup this week. This tournament isn’t open to all, so its become a priority for the resurgent Scottish giants. This game is tonight, that way Celtic will get a full house against Benfica and not be distracted by the massive crowds and coverage over at Ibrox. Rangers will be without andy Little, the new scoring phenomena, and David Templeton, the idiot who stepped into division three to further his ambitions. He’s out for a while , presumably while his therapist tries to work out what on earth goes on in his head.
In a shameful display of endemic anti Irish racism, the diary forgot to give credit to the Lurgan tiger , who correctly worked out that numbers 3 and 4 should not have been in the list of numbers provided. Despite a late stewards enquiry, the full answer is that Celtic won 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 in a row outright before anyone else. Dumbarton may have a bit of a claim to being the first to win two, but they had to share it , so it doesn’t count.
Today, think about this. Craig Burley has done it, Mark Viduka did it twice as often, and Frank MacAvennie managed it as many times as Kenny Dalglish. What?