Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has declared that the new pitch at Celtic Park will allow the team’s game to move up to another level. The ball zipped across the surface as the Hoops tore Standard Liege apart in a 4-1 friendly victory on Saturday. It came after the club invested a cool £1.5 million on a new playing surface over the summer and Rodgers believes his side will reap the benefits and improve. That is a terrifying prospect for Celtic’s rivals, as nobody has come anywhere close to toppling the Bhoys in recent years and the gap could widen further.
“I’ve been crying about a pitch for a long time and you see the speed of it and it’ll get slightly quicker as well,” said the manager. “Our identity and purpose is always to be fast, dynamic and very aggressive, and of course when you have a really good pitch and a fast pitch, then that supports that way of playing. It was a big investment by the club, but they’ll get their rewards, the players get their rewards and most importantly the spectators get their rewards. It does help, because we want to play a fast game. You’ve seen it today with the benefit of a good playing surface. It brings a different level to our game.”
The Hoops were in imperious form as they annihilated the Belgians. Optimism abounds after the club forked out almost £10 million on French youngster Odsonne Edouard, finally breaking the 18-year transfer record held by Chris Sutton. He could form an extremely dynamic strike partnership with Moussa Dembele, and they should be able to terrorise Scottish defences all season. They each scored to put Celtic 2-0 up against Standard Liege and Callum McGregor added a third before half-time. Rodgers made 11 changes at the break, but Celtic’s dominance continued and Mikey Johnston added a fourth before the visitors scored a late consolation.
It built on their Champions League qualifying victory at Alashkert and maintained an exciting momentum that is building ahead of the new Premiership season. If you check out a review of betting websites and find the best odds from reputable bookmakers, you will see that Celtic are priced at just 1/10 to win a seventh consecutive Premiership title. Rangers are out at 8/1, Aberdeen are 20/1, Hibs are 50/1 and Hearts are priced at 200/1. It should be a walk in the park. A more interesting market could be predicting whether Dembele or Edouard will take the Golden Boot, or whether Leigh Griffiths can gatecrash the party.
With those three in attack, alongside Scott Sinclair, and Scott Brown anchoring the midfield, the Bhoys should win the domestic treble without much difficulty. The real challenge will take place in Europe. Could this finally be the season that Celtic reach the last 16? First off they have to qualify, but they have excelled in this department of late. They have acquitted themselves well in the group stage, but they have been humiliated by elite European clubs and also been humbled by smaller sides.
If they can land in a decent group, they could break that trend in 2018/19. They have the attacking quality and the dynamism to pull it off, plus they are more experienced on big European nights now. Oh, and they have a better pitch too, so what can stop them? If they can go on a decent European run, it will bolster the finances and make it easier to attract exciting talent like Edouard to the club, ensuring Celtic continue to dominate domestically and compete in Europe for years to come.