Before a massive game like this, it is important to stay grounded. Let’s bear in mind that this is not just the biggest test that this team has had since we’ve become title winners. Look at the opposition. It is also the biggest test we’re likely to get.
Ordinarily, this is not the game that I would have wanted to start with. Because really, what’s a win here other than a win here? This is not just a top class European opponent here, this is the best club on the continent and perhaps in the world.
So this isn’t some gradual incline we’re on here; we’ve gone from a gentle slope to standing at the foot of sheer cliffs. We are looking up at Everest.
And the thing is, a lot of us have a nagging suspicion that we might be able to climb it. A lot of us have a nagging suspicion that this Celtic team, on home turf, if we can keep it tight at the back, might just be able to pull something off here.
Over and over again, I need to remind myself what we’re talking about.
Think of Celtic like a boxer who has punched out everyone in the lower ranks and is starting to think of himself as a contender. Wouldn’t you prefer a middle ranked fighter, as your first proper test, as opposed to a tilt at the heavyweight champion?
What happens if – as seems likely – you lose? Do you get written off? Or do the sports writers and fans keep a little perspective? There is a reason, after all, why this guy holds all the title belts. There is a reason why he’s regarded as the best.
So that’s how I’m trying to view this tonight, not as a “test” because that implies that we’ll actually learn how good we’ve become, but as something both more and less. We’re playing against the best tonight, the very best, and as far as we’ve progressed we have not progressed to the point where we are the best club on this continent.
I have my feet on the ground, looking up at the mountain, and although I’m itching to start the climb I’m also trying to be realistic about how far I can get.
I am going to enjoy it either way.