Europa League action tonight, and despite the recent run of form, it’s difficult not to get excited about it. If you consider excitement to be placing yourself behind the couch and asking the wife if they’ve scored yet.
Bayer Leverkusen are the opponents, and they’re quite a good side. Although they’re not very good at choosing right backs either, having spent millions on Jeremie Frimpong, who will never be a right back as long as he has a hole in his arse.
But he’s bloody good going forward, and Celtic haven’t really got a left back as such, so it doesn;t take a genius to see where our problems might be tonight. And, like everyone else these days who has to perform at Celtic Park in Europe, he’s looking forward to it;
“It’s nice to be back- I was happy to see the inside of Celtic Park again. I’m looking forward to seeing my former teammates and the fans, but when the kick-off whistle sounds tomorrow, there is only one task: to win.”
On his surprise move to Germany, he added ;
“I was not looking to leave Celtic, when the chance came to join Leverkusen it was not something I was actively looking to do. I was happy with my teammates, happy with the fans.”
This actually makes sense, a better offer was put to him, no one expected him to take it, but he did. See also Keiran Tierney when Everton first made a move.
The board have to tell them, and after that it’s up to the player. Tierney , of course, as Rodgers admitted, was talked out of that move, but the seed had been sown.
Back to Leverkusen, and briefly, according to Wikipedia,
Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fußball GmbH, also known as Bayer 04 Leverkusen (German: [ˌbaɪ̯ɐ ˈleːvɐˌkuːzn̩]), Bayer Leverkusen, or simply Leverkusen, is a German professional football club based in Leverkusen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The club competes in the Bundesliga, the top tier of German football, and plays its home matches at the BayArena.
The club was founded in 1904 by employees of the German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG, whose headquarters are in Leverkusen and from which the club draws its name. It was formerly the best-known department of TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a sports club whose members also participate in athletics, gymnastics, basketball and other sports including the RTHC Bayer Leverkusen (rowing, tennis and hockey). In 1999 the football department was separated from the sports club and is now a separate entity formally called Bayer 04 Leverkusen Fußball GmbH. Bayer were first promoted to the Bundesliga in 1979, and have remained in the top division ever since. The club’s main colours are red and black, both having been used as the main shirt colour and with red and black stripes also having been used as home colours.
Bayer Leverkusen have finished five times runner-up in the Bundesliga without winning the competition, a record in German football. The club has won one DFB-Pokal and one UEFA Cup. Bayer also finished runner-up in the 2001–02 UEFA Champions League, falling 2–1 to Real Madrid in the final. Their local rivals are 1. FC Köln.
What is not so well known is that they pioneered the free kick into the corner, designing their home crossbars to bend a bit in the middle so players were forced to aim for the corner, as this picture from 1955 illustrates….
A progressive club even then, they were the first to introduce the Home Season Book, where people could watch the game from their armchairs long before live tv, as you can see from the houses at the side of the pitch.
Their current sporting director is Rudi Voller, who once formed a famous strike and dive partnership with Jurgen Klinnsman in the German national team. Voller has twice managed Leverkusen, once for a fortnight in 2000, which laid the foundations for his three week spell in 2005.
They do seem to have a fairly rapid turnover of managers, the current boss, Gerard Soame , has only been in situ since July, when he replaced Hannes Wolf, who had held the post since March.
On tonights game , he said;
“I expect a great atmosphere tomorrow – great fans and a game characterized by attacking football. Celtic have a lot of good players and will want to make life difficult for us – we want to prevent that.”
Just once, I’d like opposition managers to mention the team before the atmosphere…..that at least would quell my fear that these sides look forward to coming to Glasgow, when in fact they should be having to be coaxed from the team bus when they arrive with sweeties and cakes.
In reality, this side score a lot of goals, and Celtic concede plenty.
This could be a very long night indeed.
By the way, if you’re a betting man, Patrik Schik, who lobbed David Marshall from the half way line, plays for Leverkusen, and with Joe Hart not a man to stand on his line, a cheeky fiver on a forty yarder could pay for christmas.
Celtic are still learning at this level, with very few of the new look side having any real experience to speak of, and those that have are injured.
So it’s no surprise that Postecoglou will rely on teamwork rather than individuals. Which is what he expects the Germans to do as well…
“I think it has always been a system-based league in terms of their best teams always incorporating fantastic individuals.
“Their strongest teams have always had clear structures in their football teams.
“My teams are fairly similar in that way and definitely it’s a league where, if you are passionate about football and what is happening, it’s one you follow closely.
“A lot of things they do and the way they work incorporate things that can benefit us.
“We have always got a strong connection with German football in Australia.
“Quite a few Aussies have been through there and we have had links there.
“In general you understand that the strength of the Bundesliga is such that it’s always a league people follow.
“Certainly I have because it’s a league which produces fantastic teams and fantastic footballers.
“You always respect and analyse the opposition. Both the collective and the individuals within that.
“You want to provide your players with the best possible information.
There’s no doubting his knowledge of football, but he needs to get those ideas across to the players.
Things have been a little shaky this season, and confidence may well be low. Last time out, Celts were two ahead early on away to Real Betis, but seemed to be surprised at that, and while they were thinking about how well things were going, suddenly they weren’t.
Concentration is the key, especially if Celtic do concede, as you can bet that cheeky fiver on Leverkusen players being fully aware that Celtic are vulnerable after they concede.
Just putting a stop to that will be a major achievement.
Since any predictions from the diary tend to be Celtic 7, the other lot 0, it’s probably true even the largest green tinted specs wouldn’t see that possibility, and like everyone else, any sort of win would do.
Leverkusen’s only loss in their last six outing was 4-3 to dortmund, which shows they have a bit of fight about them as well.
Not only will any win do, it will be a damn fine result if we get one.
Back to Tuesday for the caption competition….
Charlie trying to get his foot out of his ear to stick it in his mouth