The media is at it again today with talk of Lazio as a club in crisis. This is all done to present them as a team on the slide so if we beat them they can deny us credit and, if as they expect, Lazio beats us they don’t have to compare their resources with ours but instead call us out for bringing, and heaping, shame onto the Scottish game.
Even if it were true that Lazio were currently in a very bad state, this remains a team of the utmost quality, just as Feyenoord are. I never expected to get credit after our return from Rotterdam; we lost after all and thus deserved none. But I didn’t expect to read sheer guff about how poor the home side were just because they didn’t inflict a PSV style beating on us.
Their own quality was proved at the weekend when they went 3-0 up against Ajax, in Amsterdam, and the home fans rioted to have the match stopped. That shows you how good they are, and that we were still well in the game until we were two players down tells you all that you need to know about how our own performance measured up.
The press will never give us credit for anything. If Lazio come to Celtic Park and leave with their tails between their legs the narrative, which has already been laid out, will be that we caught a team on the downslope at a particularly good time. The idea that maybe we’ll have raised our game to beat a very, very good team will barely be muttered in the press box.
For the record, I still reckon it’s going to be a big ask to get a result. I’m not listening to any of this talk that they are a team in crisis. That won’t fool anybody at Celtic Park and the coaches will be telling the players to pay not one bit of heed to it.
Atletico Madrid, the other side in the group, were, of course, superb this weekend and I watched their game last night as they almost casually swatted aside Real Madrid, their local rivals, who gave us a football lesson on their home soil last season.
These are sides with vastly greater resources than we have; failing to get results against them is no more shameful than Ross County losing at Celtic Park, and the media knows this but will pretend that they don’t just to push the pressure on us.
I’ve said from the start that we will have to be exceptional – absolutely exceptional – to get a win in this Group and that we will need four points minimum just to get to the Europa. I believe we can do it. I am encouraged by the performance in Holland. But by God, it will take some effort and the last thing we need is to be distracted by their PR.