Tomorrow night at Celtic Park is the whole ball of wax.
Win comfortably and we’re through. Anything less and next week becomes a cold sweat, a match not to look forward to with expectation but with trepidation instead. Unfair? On the current squad, playing the way they are right now perhaps it is, but I suspect we all feel the same way.
Good runs in Europe are built on solid home form. We have let our dominant position at Parkhead slide in recent years, especially when the big boys come to town. But Monchengladbach came and got a result. Anderlecht, shockingly, came and did the same.
Those are the two big European disappointments of the Brendan Rodgers era.
Away in Europe, all but in Anderlecht and Rosenborg, has been heart-in-the-mouth stuff. We tend to lose silly goals, and at the worst possible times. Our team has improved in every area under Brendan except in that one; European away days still haunt our dreams.
Because of our steady improvement, there’s a part of me that wishes the away tie was first, just to see how we would cope with it. From what I can gather, the first leg will be away should we reach the final play-off against either Vidi or Malmo, so perhaps we’ll find out … but in truth I’m glad that this particular double-header starts with a match at home.
Confidence around Celtic Park is sky-high right now, and we have to take advantage of that and of the new manager at AEK and the fact his side still hasn’t played a competitive game whereas we now have five of them in the bag. We are capable of brutally dispatching this side at home, and that’s what we really need to do.
A two goal cushion would be ideal, especially one secured without conceding an away goal. A three goal victory and we’re all good, I reckon, as we’re more than capable of scoring over there. All things considered, I think we can do it.
The manager seems to have already expressed a preference for playing an attacking game; that suggests that he believes we can do it too.