With The Hoops not firing on all cylinders, they face the toughest of tasks tonight in Europa League, in Salzburg, against high-flying Red Bull.
The Austrians have a 100% record in their league after 9 games in which they’ve scored a total of 24 goals – a great feat in any league in any country which leaves me feeling extremely wary.
No other Austrian Bundesliga club has managed such a start in the League’s history.
Further to this enviable record, they are also unbeaten in their last 12 European matches at home and were of course they were Europa League semi-finalists last season.
This is not a tie without its challenges.
Stranger things have happened in one-off games, but for me a draw would be a fantastic result in Austria.
Despite leaving it late, Celtic grabbed all three points against Rosenborg in Europa League Group B. Leigh Griffiths winner with just three minutes remaining saw the Hoops unbelievably kicking off a full European campaign with a win for the first time since the 2002/03 UEFA Cup season, when we of course reached the final only to lose narrowly to Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Or should that read Jacques Costeau’s Porto, such were the acting masterclasses on display?
Coincidentally, that run also started with a double header against FK Suduva but those of us sensible enough will be less inclined to believe Baku is a possibility. The Seville Team will go down in folklore and we certainly don’t have a Larsson in the side.
Most of the current team would struggle to get into that one.
It’s not as if the Celtic support is making songs up about how they will make their way to Baku. Our targets are slightly more realistic. Qualification from the group would be a start. Not insurmountable, but extremely difficult given our form or lack of.
But there are another four games after this with two of them at Celtic Park; that gives us something to believe in.
We could do with a right good boost.
This is a chance for the players to take a break from domestic football and prove themselves on a higher plain.
Despite a better performance in the 1-0 victory over Aberdeen on Saturday, we are currently fifth in the League, six points behind league leaders Hearts after seven games. The signs are that the team are starting to show a bit more cohesion and they look as if they are fighting for each other.
This is key this evening.
Scott Brown – if he plays – will need to marshal his bhoys well.
If we show collectiveness as a team then who knows?
The signs are that Odsonne Edouard may be available after a horrendous, yet unpunished, assault by Dons defender Scott McKenna. It may well be that the young Frenchman leads the line himself – arguably the best way to start.
I can see it being a lonely old time for him.
Griffiths will no doubt be perturbed at not starting if he’s left out, given that he’s the one who’s scoring out of the two but Eddy’s strength up from will be key.
Griff struggles with this type of play, he’s not a lone striker type in Europe.
My biggest concern is our make-shift defence with Kristoffer Ajer and Filip Benkovic both out.
My forecasted team would be
Gordon; Lustig, Hendry, Boyata, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Edouard.
Brown is reputed to have missed training … he may still make the team. If not him then it’ll be Mulumbu.
The system won’t change much.
Sinclair’s experience in Europe edges it for me although Johnston and Morgan may argue otherwise.
The rest of the team picks itself.
Hendry, again has loads to prove despite having a decent game against the Dons.
I’d imagine Brendan will pack the defence and the midfield with Eddy looking to pounce via the counter-attack.
Set-pieces may well be crucial too in particular free-kicks.
Our scoring record from corners has been woeful.
Bewildering, really; Griffiths, our main threat seems to take all of the corners.
Tomorrow will be a break from the norm of how Celtic approach most games.
Brendan Rodgers said: “We’re normally the team having to break down an opponent who is sat in deep, so it’s an opportunity for us to show a different tactical side and hopefully pick up points. Experience always helps.”
This tells me that Celtic will play extremely defensively and rightly so.
Rodgers seems to be looking at a tentative approach given the heavy defeats we suffered in Europe last season, albeit at a higher level.
He went on to say: “I can probably look at myself as well. I’m a very attack-minded coach but the last thing I ever want to do is expose my players. I always feel the confidence you can gain from going against these teams and still looking to play your game can work to your advantage, but maybe I have to look at it and quell a little bit of that, just to ensure the players aren’t exposed.”
Certainly a telling sign from the Irishman, who is used to fielding attack-minded sides.
It’s the antithesis of what we’re about but we need to approach with caution given our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot.
We need to be extremely wary of losing an early goal – something we seem to be good at. But we do need to be a lot cuter in these games. We need to retain possession and move the ball quickly too – it’s all about the energy, the vigour. Salzburg will definitely have this.
If we can weather the storm for the first 20 minutes then it’s a case of building on it from there.
There’s talent in the squad and this is time to show it.
We need to defend from front to back.
The team from in all areas to be on form and if they are, who knows what’s achievable.
Gavin McCann is a Celtic fan and blogger from Glasgow. He’s a little nervous about tonight’s game.
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