Our Euro Rivals Look Unbeatable. But Of Course They’re Not.

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If you were checking the weekend’s sports results there are three, in particular, that will have caused a sharp intake of breath.

Our European rivals all won, and won with room to spare.

In England, Manchester City won 4-0 at Bournemouth and have made an outstanding start to the league campaign, which includes whipping their “title rivals” across town. Sounds familiar, right?

In Germany, Monchengladbach trounced Werder Bremen 4-1. They were magnificent. I watched their game through my fingers; anyone who reckons they are potential whipping boys should have a serious re-think. If we get three points out of six against them we’ll be doing well. If we get the four I was hoping for we deserve to still be in Europe at Christmas.

And in Spain, Barcelona beat Leganes away by 5-1. They, too, were magnificent to watch. Their movement, passing, pace and ability in front of goal … frightening. I’d be even more frightened if the Nou Camp was still in front of us.

All three teams are a cut above where we are. They play against top class opposition every single week. They test themselves against big names, in tough games. Yesterday we played against a team who camped in their own half and put eleven men behind the ball for most of the match. It’s not a test of skill as much as endurance.

I wanted a group like this, because I think if we’re going to get better then we need games like these. We need to grow as a team, and no offence to the SPFL but we’re not going to do it playing against the sides we meet in Scotland every week. The test will do us good, but by God what a test it’s going to be, and in fact has already been.

We have five more games against these clubs to come. Few in the media or elsewhere give us a prayer of picking up more than a point or two in total. That seems like a realistic assessment of our changes, on paper at least, but nothing would more surely deliver that result than going into those games with an attitude of “we’re beaten before the kick off.”

At Celtic Park we can be formidable on our day, although the worry has got to be how we play at the back. We’re depressingly poor in central defence at the moment, and the goalkeeping situation is becoming a grave concern. Tighten up at the back, and settle on the keeper and we have as good a chance at home as we did in those years when we beat Barcelona before, and shocked the likes of Juventus, AC Milan, Benfica and Lyon.

The size of the task is enormous, but football is a game where the unexpected can happen. The first step towards beating one of these sides is realising that it can be done, and you don’t have to dredge up too much of the past to see examples where all three teams have been beaten in games where they really ought to have won.

I never felt particularly comfortable before the Barcelona game; even when Dembele was stepping up to take the penalty I never really believed it would be more than a consolation prize on what was bound to be a long night, but that’s that very mind-set we need to shake off if we’re going to progress as a club. I would sincerely hope none of our players felt that way on the night, although you could see the heads drop as Barcelona made it three.

We need to knock that out of ourselves. We need to believe we’ve got the ability to succeed, even at the highest level. Celtic Park should be a fortress again, as Scott Brown said in the aftermath of the Sevco game. If we can do that we’ll shock people.

Our rivals look unbeatable, but of course they’re not.

It just takes work, and belief, and the right organisation on the night.

It can be done.

In Brendan We Trust.

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