Celtic continue their journeys tonight with a game in sunny Moscow. No, we don’t mean that small Ayrshire enclave, that’s the Moscow that Rangers are more likely to play a Scottish Cup preliminary round in, we mean THE Moscow. Home of Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square ( Not the same as the one in Glasgow that’s being ripped up!), St Basils Cathedral, The Kremlin, and of course Aiden McGeady.
It will be a novel newspaper headline friendly aspect to see the former winger turn out against the Hoops. Given his previous relationships with Neil Lennon, its likely the enigmatic McGeady will take some pleasure in trying to get one over his old comrade\mentor\antagoniser while regretting helping to contribute to what the Muscovites hope will be a bad night for the Hoops, most of whom his transfer helped to purchase.
It will be tough ( insert Napoleon gag – here (copyright Scottish Media 2012)) but Celtic are a team in form. While we haven’t been posting achievements such as taking a 2-1 lead at the Camp Nou like Spartak recently, we have been going about our business in a clinical professional manner, especially in Europe…away! Who would have thought that eh?
Following on from last years Europa away performances, Lennon’s Celtic appear to have worked out how to sit back in Europe rather than the rampant enthusiasm of Sieves gone by. Fingers crossed this continues tonight. The defence has been solid and Forster and WIlson have did very well in goal and at centre while izzy showed a return to form at Motherwell at the weekend. The worry to the defence is Adam Matthews who twisted his ankle at Fir park and is a doubt. Mikael Lustig could fit in at right back allowing Rogne\Mulgrew or Ambrose to step in at the centre with big Kelvin Timber.
In the middle, Lennon has all options open but you can guarantee Scott Brown and big Vic Wanyama will be straight on the team sheet. Both Celtic players are perfect for this tie and the only worry will be an early booking, especially given the artificial surface in Moscow. If Brown and Wanyama can stay on their feet and the right side of the Ref then the Spartak playmakers could have an irritating evening which would please the Celtic boss. Kris Commons should be a stick on and Lennon may fancy the pace of James Forrest on the counter but has many options including Joe Ledley, Kayal, Mulgrew, Ambrose and Paddy McCourt.
The key question in Lenny’s mind however will be “Is Sammi ready?” After a run out at Motherwell it will be hoped the Galloping Greek will be at his peak to stride out against Spartak. With his pace, footballing brain and also his height, Sammi provides many options for the Hoops especially when needing an out ball. Lenny will be hoping Sammi can start and give it everything before a possible late switch for Miku.
Up front should see the in form Hooper ( how good was that first touch control for his goal at Motherwell?) ploughing that lone furrow and the long balls from Commons which were displayed at the weekend will be utilised again, hopefully the bounce on a plastic pitch wont counter any chance of Celtic attacks. Hooper could be sacrificed for Sammi up front and a solid packed midfield. Its Lenny’s call but the Manager has said Celtic are confident and there cant be more players high on confidence than Mr 88 at the moment.
Spartak of course will be hoping the inexperienced Hoops capitulate and the Celtic Management will need to make sure the team are switched on from the very start. Spartak have a few injuries including their keeper Dykan, their captain Parshivlyuk and their Brazilian midfielder Romulo ( think Skoosh with a tan). Also missing will be striker Welliton who after being snubbed for a Brazil Cap is interested in playing for Russia, wonder if Aiden has given him any tips there?. Given the cash in the Russian game, they will have classy personnel to fill in for any absentees but Lenny wont be complaining that 4 such quality names are missing.
Game wise, its likely Celtic will sit in and hope for the counter. Lenny’s advice will be to Keep it tight and let some pressure build on the home team. Spartak can score goals as shown in Barcelona so its doubtful we will manage a clean sheet but their home form isn’t the greatest in the world so we could score. With some a little luck and a lot of concentration, Celtic could manage a draw here. I’ve seen enough European campaigns to know how hard Celtic find it away from home so a share of the points would be a very impressive result for Lenny’s Bhoys. Its fair to say that even a defeat could still see this current Celtic side progress in experience and fortitude but we will stay optimistic and go for a happy Lenny at the end of tonight’s fixtures which sees Celtic in second place in the group as Barca hopefully defeat Benfica.
Etims Prediction : 1-1 draw…Big Sammi to continue his rise to legend status with a 40 yard run culminating in sliding the ball home in off the post via the keepers backside!
PS – Don’t forget its a 5pm GMT kick off! Game shown on Sky Sports