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It’s After The Madrid Game And Still No-One Knows How Good Celtic Can Be.

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Remember when people were saying, not that long ago, that we wouldn’t know how good this team was until we’d played against our rivals, and then taken on Real Madrid?

Well, we’re past both of those games now and I still don’t think we know.

We swept the Ibrox club aside with an insouciance that was joyous to watch.

Madrid was always going to prove to be a tougher customer by far. As I said in a piece before the game, there really wasn’t anything to learn from that match unless we won it and then what?

Do we conclude we’re the best side in Europe all of a sudden?

We didn’t reach the summit of Everest.

We were never really expected to. We certainly played exceptionally well for a lot of the game and were simply outdone by pure quality. But stopping short of Madrid’s level doesn’t tell us the most important thing.

Which is how high we can actually get short of the peak.

We will take a giant step towards finding that out next midweek, when we travel to Poland. Donetsk awaits us there, on the back of thumping RB Leipzig.

We are going to learn something about ourselves then.

We are going to learn against the Germans.

These are the perfect two clubs to be going up against next.

Because these clubs are at a level where we have more than just a punchers chance of getting results.

We should test both of these sides, home and away. If we do that, then we’ll know something about how far this team has come. These are the games on which we will be judged.

I suspect we’re good enough to get something out of the away games.

I know that at home we’re going to give any side in this competition a game.

I said when I saw the fixture list that four points from the first three games would be a tremendous result, with the following two both at Celtic Park, and that’s the target we should be gunning for.

If we get it, we should dispatch both teams at home to seal second place before we even get to Madrid. I know that I cannot wait for next Wednesday to come, because that game will be massive in terms of our chances, and in measuring our progress.

Based on what we could glean from the Madrid game, we should be more than up to the job.

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16 comments

  • Seppington says:

    I am confident we can beat these sides at home and get draws at least away and get second place. I am also confident that if it didn’t go our way and we were to drop into the Europa we’d have a very very good chance of winning it.

    Confident, but can I say “I *know* we will beat Shakhtar? No.

    This next game is the real test as far as I am concerned. A pretty “same level” CL team as us, that are feeling confident after a 4-1 win to start the competition, and facing them away from home. If we stroll this game then I will feel very confident we will finish second, if we beat Leipzig I will *know* we’re going through.

    All of this ignore the possibility that Real may drop points too. If we’d have taken our chances they would have dropped some right away…

  • SSMPM says:

    We should have a better idea after the Shakhtar and Leipzig away games if we have any chance of qualifying. To lose leaves us 6 points behind and frankly in a very difficult place. A result has to come from that game even the draw would suffice. We need a platform to bounce on from or the Leipzip away in October I think decides our fate, still in it with a shout or glorious underachievement

  • Cheezydee says:

    Lose the 2 away, win the 2 at home, going in to the last game at Madrid with gate in our hands where we can finish anywhere between 2nd and 4th. What’s the chances

  • Johnny Green says:

    I am quietly confident of winning the next two games, and if we do then second place is well within our reach. I don’t want, and I don’t think that Real Madrid will lose any points, we need them to take full points off the other two. These games cannot come quick enough and they definitely will be a yardstick to our overall progress and our further progress in the competition.

  • Geoff says:

    Not want to be a glass almost empty but we have to consider the possibility of having zero points after three games as well.
    This tournament is unforgiving as Liverpool have just found out.
    Just saying.

  • Jim says:

    And a test it is going to be. Shakhtar are very, very good. Their winger, Mudryck, is greased lightning and if we play a high line against them we can expect the same as Leipzig.

    Juranovic will need to have the best game of his life. It’s catch 22 in the centre. We need the composure of Jens in possession and the pace and dig of Starfelt when we need to defend. The brutal truth is neither of these guys is the complete package. I would opt for Starfelt for this one.

    With Napoli hosing down Liverpool, that really is a Group of Death now and Sevco are the road-kill.

  • John A says:

    Hard to assess how good Shaktar are. Great result in Germany.

  • MarkE says:

    Ange needs to ditch his ‘we’ll play our way’ mantra and sort out the obvious frailties Real Madrid exposed in his system!

    Our biggest Achilles heel in Europe for years now is getting caught on the counter attack with our last line of defence hopelessly chasing play back towards our own goal; even Madrid aren’t that cavalier, and for a very good reason, it doesn’t work at this level!

    Manager after manager have failed to address this, and Ange seems determined to follow in their footsteps.

    You can still play attacking football and ensure you have defensive cover thats not going to be exposed to quick breaks; its all about balance, and with that balance, this team could be deadly!

    • Damian says:

      I disagree. He should keep doing that same thing and hope that next time we open the scoring. What you’re suggesting is what Lennon did in 2013-14. Indeed, he set us up the same way domestically while we were still in the CL group and we endured endless boring league games for the duration. We also finished bottom of the group with one win and five defeats. But there was a huge concentration on the solidity of the defence with van Dijk at the back.

      In any case it’s all moot, because Ange simply will not do that. What you’re arguing is tantamount to saying, ‘let’s just sack Ange and try harder to get Steve Clarke next time’.

      Everything we did on Tuesday night going forward is inextricably linked to the way the team defended: bringing the full backs inside to support in the 6 position, playing quick (often diagonal passes), knowing full well that in doing so, you will lose the ball more often than not (as we did on Sunday too) but then immediately advance to press and recover the ball.

      You can’t do any of that if you’re forcing your defensive players deeper. There’s too big a gap in front of them. Had we done that, we’d have been absolutely pasted, as we have been in the past.

      • MarkE says:

        I don’t think you quite understood what i meant about striking a balance. I certainly didn’t mean playing backs to the wall football, i thought that much was obvious.

        The defence need to be on their toes, ready to drop back to offer some goalmouth cover when opposition gain possession, so its not a race between us and them towards our goal, with the midfield equally alert and not ‘diving in’!

        Modern top level football is all about striking that type of balance between attack and defence, and the team had it sussed in the first half more or less, bar the odd Madrid counter attack that caught them out.

    • biffo67 says:

      If only Ange had your expertise we’d. be world beaters. Maybe a Livi manager and plastic pitch would bring us success.

      • MarkE says:

        Strange thing is almost everything I’ve pointed out about the team has been implemented into it over the following weeks and months, and we’re talking about a lot of things, not just the odd lucky coincidence!

        Ange is just a man like the rest of us, and like every manager in the game, he’s not infallible and is always learning in what is an evolving game, but maybe we should just stand still to suit you and other conservative minds like you for whom change, fresh input and new ideas is a scary prospect!?

  • Hugh says:

    I like the way Ange is playing but it seems to rely on being a goal or two to the good before half time, Twice against Sevco we settled back at three up and soaked up what we had to. Could have done this v Madrid but going in level and running a bit out of steam set us up for what transpired and I think Madrid knew this as they kept things tight first half and opened up second. At half time with Abada and Jota not firing on all cylinders I would have introduced Forrest on right and Maeda on left and give them something different to think about. We rely on wing play to bring the pace of Kyogo over short distance into play and we failed to do that second half. The chance missed by Maeda looked like a shot from Jura, he really needs to do better but I hear fans blaming Maeda.

    • MarkE says:

      One Celtic player who really stood out for me in that game was Juranovic. He epitomised professionalism, driving up and down his flank the whole game causing Madrid problems and keeping them on their toes and the backfoot; all our players need to follow his example!

      I honestly feel we’d be a much stronger team playing McGregor on the other flank as an inverted full-back, give him that freedom to get involved in attacking moves given his pace and drive, he’s a better option than Taylor, a better attack minded and technically superior player, plus he’s every bit as good defensively.

      …also it gives us an opening in the middle of the park for another midfielder, maybe Abildgaard

      • MarkE says:

        …or play Maeda in the inverted left fullback role, let hkm link up with Hatate & co down the left; with an engine like his, he could easily instantly strengthen the team bith defensively and in attack operating with the freedom that role offers.

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