Brendan Rodgers today gave an injury update on Leigh Griffiths; he didn’t train today, but he has trained during the week. His absence seems precautionary, or it could be a piece of black propaganda from the manager. Either way, he’s got a chance of making it.
Yet if, as some suspect, Leigh Griffiths isn’t fit for the game on Saturday it will be a blow but not a game-changer. If he misses the Barcelona match that’s a much more serious issue, and will rob us of our most potent weapon for a hugely important tie.
Celtic is not the sum total of one man.
Clearly I’d feel a lot better if Leigh was in the team at the weekend, but he is a cog in the big wheel. With other players returning to fitness, and Dembele proving such a potent player at Fulham, I would have no fears at all about a team where he was the front man. There’s enough there to convince me.
This is what happens in football these days, where individual players get more credit for the exploits of the team than they are due. Everyone who regularly reads knows how I feel about Leigh; I’ve been a fan since long before we signed him, and I consider him one of the essential members of the squad. But he’s one guy, one player, and Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic is a team. Our good form this season hasn’t been solely down to Leigh. We will miss his absence, but it does not change, one iota, my confidence that we can win this game.
It doesn’t even change the likely tactical arrangements; Dembele can play as the lone striker and if the manager decides to go with two up front he can play Sinclair alongside him, which would allow both Forrest and Roberts to play in the same line-up, utilising the pace and the goal threat of both. There’s little here to genuinely trouble us at the weekend; Leigh’s absence might, however, be the difference between a comfortable win and a cricket score.
Much more a concern would be his absence against Barcelona, where I feel it’s much more important to have every available first team player fit and on his game. The tactical disposition will have changed for that match; we’re unlikely to have anticipated playing the same way as we’ll approach the Sevco game at the weekend.
Losing a key player is always a blow, let’s face it. You want to have your full squad fit and available for every single match. But there’s no point in wailing here. Leigh will either make it or he won’t, and if he doesn’t we’ll simply make do. But we’ll be making do by putting in his place a guy with the presence and coolness to take a last minute do-or-die spot kick, a player who was valued at £6 million not that long ago and would have cost us that if we’d been English based.
Not exactly something to make you cry in your beer, is it?
He will be missed on Saturday, but not at the full time whistle, when I suspect we’ll all be pretty happy regardless. Our Champions League trip to Barcelona is another matter entirely, and I think we will miss him for that one.
In Brendan We Trust, though. He’s the man.