Two questions; what do we want tonight, and what do we need?
What we want is simple enough; a Celtic victory.
That’s all. No particular score-line, as long as we’re on the winning side. If it’s a single goal win from a disputed throw in where the ball comes off the ref and hits two opposing defenders on the way into the net not a soul at Celtic Park wearing the green and white will stop celebrating long enough to say “Aaah bit lucky there …”
But what we need is simple enough too; any combination of results where Anderlecht don’t gain a point on us. If they lose to the Parisians and we lose too, that’s not the worst night in the world. If we snatch a point and they get nothing, it’s all over for them.
That’s an outcome I can foresee.
That’s one I think could actually come off.
The great thing is, knowing Brendan he will not play for a point. We will attack Bayern tonight, and try to get something more from the game. And yes, it’ll help that two of their most brilliant players are not on the pitch. That will give the media its excuse to dredge up nonsense about them not being full-strength, as if we are at the moment.
The question as to who should play is one that obviously arises; at the back we have limited options and I would take Nir Bitton in the middle rather than Lustig, who belongs out wide. I would also go with Moussa Dembele up front; with all respect to Leigh, Moussa has that bit of extra quality and would give their central defenders pause.
The loss of Roberts is a blow, of course. But Patrick has not yet captured his sensational form of the last campaign; I don’t feel it’s too terrible a prospect putting James in there instead. The central midfield is where the manager really has choices to make though.
For me, there’s a solid case for playing Tom Rogic from the start; his energy and dynamism are second to none. He is our ace in the hole.
I would give the remaining berth (Scott Brown will play, of that there is no doubt) to Ntcham, because he has experience of playing in Serie A and when he’s got his cool head on takes that extra one second to stop and look around him when he gets the ball. That second can open up attacks and ensure more passes are completed.
Celtic Park was once Fortress Parkhead … it’s been a long while since our results have justified that tag, but tonight we can start to restore the reputation of the place and take a huge step towards the Europa League after Christmas.
It will take a disciplined display. It will take every player working for everyone else. It will take the Best Fans In The World (official) being at their loudest and proudest.
And I think we can do it. There’s no bombast, no big predictions, no shouting from the rooftops about how we’ll definitely get a result … this is still a team from the very top tier we’re playing tonight, one of the superclubs … but at home, in front of those fans it’s not impossible and the first step towards achieving is believing.
Brendan will have told the players that, and he’ll be drumming it into them, and he won’t be telling them to play for pride or for that one point. But that one point would be enough. It would be a major result, and one that would set us up nicely.