Another predictive headline , we hope. though there’s no reason why celtic can’t do this tonight, and no reason why it shouldn’t be comfortable.
There’s a couple of ways of looking at the game, 1-1 from the first leg, and the most simple is that if they don’t score then they are out.
So therefore the emphasis will be on keeping possession, and on safety first. It would be ridiculous to defend, or try to defend for an hour and a half, but a little bit of common sense and no silly mistakes should be enough to be going on with.
And anyway, we should be fairly confident of scoring ourselves.
Theres a lot of talk of four and five goal wins, but reallistically, unelss their heads go down, that won’t happen. The big crowd may see a few of them retreat into their shells, but its unlikely. As it stands, they are out of the competition, and will take the game to Celtic, having nothing to lose.
We need a big game from the referee, who isn’t used to this sort of occasion, and we need focus and discipline from the players, something that has improved this term, and in fact if we continue to improve as we have so far, then I’d expect a two goal victory, albeit with a couple of scars during the game.
We could see a competitive debut for Kolo toure, alongside either Efe Ambrose or Eoghan O’Connell, or even both, and there is the likelihood of Stefan Johansen featuring at some point. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine, but there should be enough in any side put out by the manager to see this one through.
One noticable difference ahead of this game is the way the manager talks his players up, as opposed to last season when pre match pressers were largely about the other team, and how much respect we had for them.
This is a significant change in policy, and can only help morale.
Players read the papers, and it will do them good to to read good things about them, and lets be honest, even that is a refreshing change.
Rodgers spoke of Leigh Griffiths, the man Astana tried to get banned, and the striker would have been chuffed to read what he said;
“What events since tell you is how much of a threat they see him as.
“They obviously respect him so much as a player, they maybe wanted try to get him banned.
“You can only assume that’s why they took the course of action they took but I have not given it too much thought.
“I always think that to be a winner and to be the best, you need to be on the limit and Leigh plays on the limit.
“That’s what you want as a coach and a manager and, if he had a more Latino name, he would be talked about as being worth 15 million quid, for sure.
“Luis Suarez played on edge and he was all right!
“You prefer players to have an edge to their game but what Leigh has shown very quickly in the short time I’ve been here is that he’s another player who has impressed me.
“I saw the goals he’d scored before, the quality of the finishes, and the technique is top class.
“But what has impressed me more than anything is his tactical capacity.
“That shows me that Leigh is improving and, if he continues that, it’ll bring his game up another level.”
Something not so well known about Griffiths are his leadership qualities. Here, he explains to Efe Ambrose that they are on the same team, and he should be marking someone in a different coloured shirt;
There was a hint , actually, a little more than a hint, that Kolo toure would play some part in tonights game;
“Kolo’s experience will be vital, whether it is from the start or in another part of the game.
“It will depend on what I feel the game needs.
Another significant change in policy. The manager has shown he will adapt the way the team plays when he feels he has to. all a bit radical for us supporters, but it seems to work.
Kolo could start the game and last it, but it’s one of those one when, as a coach, you are thinking it might be that second or final part of the game where you need that experience to close it out.
“He could, for example, play 60 minutes and have to come off.
“Then you have to put someone less experienced on.
“The idea could be to keep him on the sidelines and then, when you need more height in the team to close out the game because they [Astana] are playing direct, you can put him on.
“If I feel he can start, I will have no problem playing him.
The manager also backed his captain, Scot Brown, and by doing this publicly, he’ll have done no harm to how the midfielder feels about himself either;
“I can only talk about experiences before and what happens is that when someone loves a team or a club so much and puts everything into that club, he is normally the one who bears the brunt of it.
“Scott is such a driving force for the team, but sometimes when things don’t go so well for the team that player gets it.
“I saw that with Steven Gerrard. Even with everything Steven did at Liverpool, there were still times when he bore the brunt of it
“Thankfully Scott has a strong character. Mentally he is very good and knows he has a big responsibility here as one of the main pillars of the club.”
“Scott and Steven are very similar. They want what is best for the club.
“‘Scott’s ambition is for the club, not for himself. That’s what you find in these types of players – they are not selfish.
“Everything they do is based around what’s best for the team and they put themselves secondary to that.
“Steven, like Scott, was a wonderful ambassador for his club, and in the changing room these types are very strong, they are able to lead.
“I always say that is key for the manager. It’s not what they players do when they are with you – it’s what they do when they are not with you.
‘You need your lieutenants in there who can control that and certainly he is one of them.”
“Scott Brown has really impressed me tactically in the work I’ve been looking the team to do. He has shown me over the course of pre-season that he can play as a controller.
He has shown elements of his game that I probably didn’t think he had, to be honest. But he has also shown he can step up one and be that runner in the corridor.
“My perception of him was obviously from afar. The kid has been a runner all his life, ever since he broke into the Hibs team at 17.
“Then I came up against him in a friendly or two and could see he had a real aggressive streak, which I love.
“Now I’m working with him, I can see he is in great shape. Physically he looks really good. He is healthy in terms of his diet and mentality.
“Tactically, the concepts in the game I have asked him to do – and I’ve looked at him in a couple of positions – he has surprised me how quickly he has picked it up.
“Sometimes players get labelled quickly, such as being athletic and then people just focus on his running.
“But can you develop on the tactical side of the game? From what we have given them so far, which has been a lot, he is tactically very astute. He probes into spaces, fills gaps both with and without the ball.
“His passing is good and he can open it up at times. Of course, like any player it could be better. But he can play it long, short or split the game.
“He is great in the element I love, which is the pressing game. He can really drive the team, hunt and press. Then he has the calmness to make the first pass when he wins it. So he has really impressed me.”
Then he mentioned the Davie Moyes story from yesterday, thrown out by desperate hacks to distract him from tonights match, and maybe even make him feel like he was second best;
“I’m sure the club spoke to a number of people, but when they asked to speak to me, I obviously knew the size of the club and the positives and negatives to the job.
“For me, the positives of being up here far outweighed everything else at this stage in my career.
“I’m probably a bit younger than most, but there was no hesitation for me to come.
“To come to Scottish football, in general, was going to be exciting for me.
“I don’t know so much about it, but I know it’s competitive and I know it can be tough.
“I can see where David is coming from, if he spoke to the club, but still felt he wanted to be in the Premier League.
“I’m different. I’ve got another 15 to 20 years as a coach and I didn’t want it all to be in the Premier League.
“I’m from Northern Ireland and moved to Reading when I was 16.
“I lived in Wales in Swansea, in the north west of England. I hadn’t been to Scotland and was happy to come.
“They tell me the weather can be good and for me it’s a special experience.
“Everyone’s individual needs are different, but, for me, I was open-minded when I spoke to the club, probably like David was, and I was honoured to be asked to take it on.”
and crucially, he added, or so we are led to believe…
“Plus, I’m a Celtic fan. Have been since I was a kid, and I felt it was important not to let that dopey ginger fucker anywhere near the club, as he would have set us back years. Never won a thing, you know…
Speaking of things we’ve been led to believe, we heard a brilliant story from Auchenhowie, which we think will put a smile on your lips. Through an alcoholic haze, we got this from our mole at that place….
Lee Connolly, a Sunderland under 18 player…
Mad Celtic fan. Invited by Rangers* to sign around Feb this year, gets tour of auchenhowie then car to Ibrokes. Walks down the tunnel with the great David Weir, “wait til you hear this” -4 bars of Simply the Best: right Da, we’re going. I’m no huvvin it. Exit stage left.
Which is not quite how the Record reported it back then…
Rangers are set to miss out on Scots superkid Lee Connelly as the youngster prepares to seal a deal with Premier League strugglers Sunderland .
The 15-year-old Queen’s Park midfielder is set to line up for the Black Cats Under-18s side that is taking on Manchester United at Carrington this morning.
Connelly has been training all week with Sunderland and an impressive display is likely to lead to the offer of a full-time contract at the Stadium of Light.
Connelly, a Scotland Under-16 internationalist, has been tracked by a host of Scottish clubs this season but Rangers have shown the greatest interest.
To add to the feelgood factor this morning, its worth noting that ahead of such an important game, the manager took time out to cast his eye over the development sqaud, who themselves were playing at a higher level, in what could be a kind of microcosm of the senior side should we reach the group stages of the UCL.
Invited to take part in the Irn Bru Cup with lower league senior sides, the youngsters excelled with a crushing 5-1 win over Annan Athletic. This idea of letting the youngsters play against real football teams can only benefit them in the long run, and surely its only a matter of time before they are allowed to compete regularly within the pyramid system.
Neil Doncaster has yet to ring me, but thats one of the things i’ll mention to him.
Whilst we are all optimistic ahead of the game, the title for the most optimisitc man in the world must be awarded to the head of retail at Celtic…
CELTIC’S new 2016/17 pink and black Third Kit from New Balance is on sale now and available to buy exclusively* from all Celtic stores and online at celticsuperstore.co.uk
The striking new strip has been well-received by supporters and the latest kit from New Balance now completes Celtic’s kit collection for the 2016/17 season, with the new green and white Hooped Home Kit and black and gold Away Kit also on sale now.
Celtic stores throughout Scotland and Ireland open their doors today to fans looking to be amongst the first to wear the new kit. This includes the Celtic Store at Glasgow Airport, ideal for fans looking to pick up the new kit before heading off on holiday
Sales are expected to hit double figures as early as Christmas, and we saw in the caption competition yesterday the sort of treatment you can expect if you wear one outside in the streets.
Still, if you do fancy one of the kits, at least you won’t have to queue for it.
In other news, Scott Allan could be re-united with his old boss Alan Stubbs at Rotherham, as there is talk of a season long loan. whatever Deila saw -or didn’t see-in Allan, has clearly been noticed by Rodgers, and its becoming less of a conspiracy theory, and more of a theory, that he was signed purely to weaken Hibernian to ensure the “rangers ” were promoted.
Tom English, the Irishman who writes for the Scotsman has been wailing again. apparently all this talk of “rangers ” being a new club-they are, and thats how UEFA see them, you can trust me on that one…as you will see soon, is rather getting on his nerves…
Old hat ? New hat ? Magic hat ?
Exactly which hat is he talking through here ?
As one chapter closes in this particualr debate, another is about to open.
But then again, the free press in Scotland would be aware of that, wouldn’t they ?
We used to think that our own PR at Celtic was pretty bad, but spare a though for this chap, who was proud to sign for Notts County until he saw this picture..
Caption competition yesterday…