The media has gotten its ducks in a row for once.
They don’t always get there, but this time they’ve played their cards to perfection.
The idea that Celtic has a great chance tonight and should be confident of victory is nearly universal. Lazio have been interpreted as a team in crisis, a struggling side, a team which is past its best.
All of that and more continues to roll out of the media machine.
If Celtic beat this team tonight then all of the above will be offered to mitigate our achievement.
If we don’t then we’ll be castigated for failing to beat a club which, if you believe what you’re hearing, might be one bad result away from on its knees.
It is obvious. It is transparent. And it is working.
I’m moderating my own expectations. We’re facing a damned good team this evening and nothing changes that simple fact. They are capable. They are strong. They are dangerous. They have a number of outstanding footballers in their ranks. It will be no disgrace not to beat them, and because of that I will regard it as a genuine triumph if we do.
At this level, I would treat every opponent with respect, because that also reflects well on any result we’re able to get.
I think we need four points, as I’ve said all along, and so even one tonight, followed by a win over Feyenoord at Celtic Park, would get us the number we might require to get out of this group.
To get six would be shooting for the moon … and yet I think we can, without going over the score about it. At Celtic Park would should fear no-one, but that’s not the same as thinking that you can beat anyone.
Lazio fall into that category of “maybe.”
Maybe on the right night with the right performance.
Where everyone gets every decision spot-on. Where players take their time and that extra half second to make the perfect pass or the perfect run.
That’s what it’s going to come down to in a sense, to perfection, to being 100%.
It’s because perfection is tough to achieve, and essential to winning games like these, that I’m going to be able to cut the team a little slack tonight. I hope for a win. Do I expect one? Not really.
Because Lazio are a better team than we are and one of the best in this competition.
That has to be viewed realistically, and although the media may want to present them as being in some sort of state I am listening to none of it and no-one else should either.
We have a chance. Definitely.
If we play brilliantly across the team and if the Celtic fans turn it into one of those awesome nights under the lights, then we can do it. But the challenge is enormous and the media should not be trying to dress that up for its own ends.
If we win tonight, I want the credit that goes with having defeated a top team from one of the top leagues in Europe. If we don’t win, I don’t want it dressed up as some kind of disgrace and that’s what’s behind these claims that Lazio are in bad shape.
I expect the toughest possible game tonight, and I hope for a big, big performance.
If we get the big, big performance we can get something from it.
If that happens, man oh man, everyone involved should hold their head up high.