Celtic’s Fixtures During The Asian Cup Show Us The Danger That Tournament Might Pose.

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This website has written a couple of pieces now on the dangers posed to us by having too many players at the club who will be eligible to take part in the Asian Cup when it kicks off in January.

Depending on the dates on which players are expected to turn up for duty for that tournament, and on when they might be back, we might be in a bit of a sticky situation.

All three of the countries from which we have bought players of late – South Korea, Japan and Australia – are taking part in the Group Stages of that competition.

The opening fixture takes place on 12 January; our new signing from Australia will almost certainly be in the national team which takes on India just one day later.

Japan will play a day after that, and the Koreans a day after that.

The Group Stages run until Thursday 25 January.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that for those particular games we will be largely unaffected, as our league is on its mid-season hiatus. That starts on the day after we go to St Mirren, on 2 January. (The game against the Ibrox club is on 30 December.)

The only difficulty will be for the players who have to leave that day and go away to compete in the tournament itself; they won’t get much of a break.

They’ll be going from our hectic domestic and European campaign and straight in there. To be fair, most of the European based players taking part will be in the same boat.

Here’s where the problem comes in, for us; our first league game after the Group Stages is complete, is on 27 January, two days after South Korea plays their last Group Stage game. Two days.

There is no chance of Oh or anyone else from there being ready for that game, even if they are home … and that’s not a lock; in fact, it would be a stretch.

We play Ross County at home that day.

As things stand we would probably be missing Kyogo, Maeda, Hatate, Oh and Tillio.

Which as you can see includes the tip of our attacking spear.

Our three starting strikers – our only recognised strikers – out.

Leaving Abada and Haksabanovic to fill the gap.

Japan and South Korean will be amongst the favourites for the competition. They will all have a good chance of being in the next round, the first knockout phase.

That takes place between 28-31 January.

The quarter finals are held on 2-3 February.

We play Aberdeen, away, on 2 February.

The semi-finals are on 6-7 February, and it’s not crazy to suggest that Japan have a good chance of getting that far with the other two as decent outside bets.

On Wednesday 7 February, we’re away to Hibs.

The final takes place three days after that, on 10 February.

We don’t have a league game that weekend, but this year that was the week of the Scottish Cup 5th round, and if any of our players get to the final they’re obviously out of that game as well.

Presuming everyone is back fit and ready, we have Kilmarnock at home on 17 February.

But sandwiched in between the Asian Cup Final and that fixture, there is one other little fly in the soup, something we really need to consider as well as all of the above and it’s this; if we qualify from our Champions League Group, we’ll play the first knockout round on 14 February.

If we make it to third place in the Champions League Groups, we will have to play a knockout round in the Europa League against a second placed team from their Group Stages for a place in the last 16. That game will be on 15 February.

Either way, it’s not a lot of time.

As you can see, we’re in a sticky situation when it comes to this stuff … and people at Celtic have to be watching this, they have to know the schedule, and they have to recognise that this is not something about which we don’t have to be concerned.

This is a clear and present danger and it’s obvious to us right now … the potential of two massive away league games and a Fifth Round Scottish Cup tie without a recognised striker, and a major European game just days after the Asian Cup, at which Japan are one of the favourites, comes to an end.

People at Celtic need to be on this right now … and planning for how we get through it. The signing of another striker, with a European passport, would be an excellent start.

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