When Brendan Rodgers sends out his players on to the park in the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg tonight, even he doesn’t know what Celtic will turn up.
Will it be the side that played so well in the first leg last Thursday night at Celtic Park or the team that laboured so much against Anderlecht?
It’s hard to tell, the team have hit the heights on a number of occasions this season, but inexplixably for a team under Brendan, had a good number of lows too. Without trying to compare to last season’s phenomenal feats, the Bhoys have had to cope with a lot more injuries and selection problems this term, so something has to give. Which probably explains to an extent the inconsistent displays, and the loss of points.
However, when the Hoops are at full speed. and the players perform, they’re a match for anyone, including Zenit St Petersburg.
Come 6pm this evening, we’ll get the first glimpse of the team Brendan thinks will do the job. That job is more about qualifying than performing, but both would set us up nicely for our trip to Aberdeen on Sunday.
Either way, still participating in Europe at this stage of the season is a bonus, As a pot four team in such a tough Champions League group, to be playing Europa league football in February, is an acheivement in itself.
Regardless of the result, we should all remember that…
Tomorrow Celtic will play in Russia for the fourth time in European competion since the break up of the old Soviet Union.
Our last three encounters have taken us to Moscow, where the Bhoys won twice, 2-0 against Dynamo in 2009, and that memorable 3-2 Champions League win over Spartak in 2012. Our previous game against Spartak in Russia ended in a credible 1-1 draw in 2007.
So, the Hoops are technically unbeaten on Russian soil, albeit all three games were played in the capital Moscow.
Tomorrow, we travel to 700k north to the Baltic port of St Petersburg to face local side Zenit, one of the big spenders in the Russian league. Manager Roberto Mancini is known to spend a bob or two, as his spell at Manchester City will testify.
That of course doesn’t guarantee you success.
Only last week he brought his team to Glasgow as favourites and left with a 1-0 defeat. Celtic were brilliant on the night, and to say the fact it was the Zenit players first game in two months is being disengenuous to the Bhoys.
However, tomorrow’s game will be different.
For a start the game with a lead, that may influence the way manager Brendan Rodgers picks his team. The match is also being played on a totally new hybrid pitch for the first time. That may suit the Bhoys as Zenit won’t have played on it either.
And of course the occasion. We’ve all seen it before, losing an early goal then it’s uphill from there on in. That is simply an option we cannot afford in St Petersburg.
Having said that, we are always likely to nick a goal, having done so in Paris and Brussels in our Champions League group games. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again…
We all know draw will be suffice. Let’s hope we can go get one…
As Scottish Football’s governing body you would think the SFA would be doing their utmost to help and promote the country’s only European representative. In any other footballing nation, that would be the case.
However, we’re talking about Scotland here. A place where corruption is the game’s middle name. A place where the bowling club mentality of the football association is plain for all to see.
Last Thursday night Celtic played host to Zenit St Petersburg in the last 32 of the Europa League, at Celtic Park. The champions are the only club leaft in Europe after all the others faltered long before the clocks went back. Celtic’s progress is as important to the standing of our game as it is to the prestige of the club.
Having a club still in Europe after Christmas is a big deal. The SFA and the SMSM should have all been geared to promote the hell out of chances, and get right behind us.
Instead, the paraocial stooges at Hampden decided to take the limelight off the Hoops and announce a tax cheat, Alex McLeish, as the national manager. The morals of those who occupy the 6th floor at the National Stadium have never been anything but shady, to say the least, but to announce EBT McLeish on Thursday was a slap in the face to not only Celtic, but every Celtic fan.
They had all the time in the world to appoint a new manager, God knows they’ve fecked about long enough, but chose to show their utter contempt for our club with their stunt last Thursday.
The fact it’s McLeish can wait for another day. I just hope when it comes round to providing players for future Scottish internationals, the gaffer let those selected know that as far as we’re concerned, Celtic come first.
Craig Levein likes to play the pantomine vilian. As far as he’s concerned, it’s all abut him. Ma ba’ syndrom you could call it.
His blast about Broony this week is typical of a guy who’s ego is so big they had to widen the doors at Tynecastle. Now there’s nothing wrong with an ego, if you’ve got something to boast about, but poor Craigie has absolutely hee-haw to brag about.
As a player he was decent, winning a couple of Young Player of the Year awards, with a Scottish Cup runners-up medal thrown in. He also represented Scotland on 16 occasions.Hardly setting the game alight!
To be fair, he’s better known for punching his team mate Graeme Hogg before a game at Raith Rovers, for which he received a 12 match ban. Quite a guy.
Since he became a manager he’s won a few Manager of the Month awards and was rewarded with a stint as Scotland manager, where his tactical nous saw him field a team without a striker in the Czech Republic.
WIth is feet firmly under the table at Tynecastle he oversaw the appointment and dismissal of Ian Cathro, though he chose to keep on his assistant Austin McCann.
This season, he’s wrestled with a Hamilton player in the Tynecastle technical area, resulting in a sending-off, grabbed a Hibs player in the same place a couple of weeks ago, then proceeded to jibe Hibs manager Neil Lennon after the game with his crass ‘normal service restored’ comment.
While Brendan was magnanimous post our 4-0 defeat in Edinburgh last month, this creep went all ‘5-3 on aggregate’ after Tuesday’s game, refering to their 4-0 win and our 3-1 win. Convenently forgetting the 4-1 drubbing we gave them on the opening day of the season.
I’m sure Celtic captain Scott Brown will use the idiotic comments from motivation, as the Bhoy leads the club to our seventh title in a row, and possibly a second consecutive Treble. And possibly, a Player of the Year award too!
You never know, if we beat Partick Thistle next weekend and The Diets overcome St Johnstone, the draw might just pair us together. Now wouldn’t that be nice….
Before the opening of this years January transfer window, there was an outcry from the support for new recruits, as there always is. Only this year the requirements were more specific.
A goalie, this was before Craig Gordon’s injury, a right back, centre half and that illusive ‘number 10’ were all on the ‘shopping list’ of the concerned Celtic support.
Along with the customary demand to spend every last penny of any Champions League money, aquiring the players you would like, is not as easy as many think. After all, it’s only a couple of years ago the same support were lambasting Ronny Deila for bring quantity to the club, at the expense of quality.
However, Brendan Rodgers is a different animal in this respect.
He’ll wait and be patient to get who he wants, if at all possible. This was shown with the persuit of the majorly talented Chaly Musonda, who could have been at Paradise in the summer, but for some reason, the deal fell through. His recruitment, all be it on loan for the next eighteen months, goes a long way to filling that ‘number 10‘ role.
Charly was in fact the third player to join the Hoops this window. German international centre back Martin Kommper, joined from RB Leipzig earlier in January but was injured at our training camp in Dubai. St Mirren’s young winger Lewis Morgan also put pen to paper for the Hoops but was immediatley loaned back to the Buddies to continue his development.
That left the right back and goalkeeping positions to fill.
So Brendan went up to Dundee to get Scott Bain and Jack Hendry. Bain, who was out on loan to Hibs after falling out with the odious Neil McCann, has been a target for the Hoops for a while now. He joins on a six month loan deal while his team mate Hendry is here on a more permanent basis after signing a four and a half year deal. His transfer was also a record for the Drak Blues, although not disclosed.
Our failure to take club to near bankruptcy will not go down too well with some of the support, but it looks like the manager has the players in he wants to work with. And I’m sure he’ll know best…
Celtic demolished the only side to record a domestic win against the Hoops in a scintillating forty-five minutes that totally blew the Edinburgh side away.
Goals from Odsonne Edouard, Dedryck Boyata and the man of the moment Moussa Dembele, gave the Bhoys a comfortable three goal interval lead.
The Bhoys returned to the kind of form that had all us Celtic fans salivating after we demolished Aberdeen at Pittodrie earlier this season, again with an in-form Moussa as the focal point. Of course as on that occasion, captain Scott Brown ran the show last night.
If Broonie doesn’t win the Player of the Year then there’s something far wrong.
Brendan changed things around abit for the game, bringing in the more physical Koussi and Eduoard to combat the Jambos, who like to leave the boot it. They only do so because they get away with it, much like their Glasgow cousins….
From the start you could see the Bhoys were up for the game and took the lead after only two minutes, Edouard scoring aftre Moussa put him through. That was the catalyst for Celtic to go about skelping their opponents.
And they did, when James Forrest headed down to Moussa who slipped in Dedryck Boyat who was still forward from a corner, to shot past the advancing McLaughlin in the Hearts goal.
The goal didn’t really reflect the dominance the Bhoys had in the game, but the third made the scoreline more realistic.
A fantastic run from Kieran Tierney down the left brought him to the byeline, where he dummied a sprawling Hearts defender, before crossing to Moussa, three yards out to knock home the goal we’ve all been waiting for.
You could see the relief on the players face, and in fairness to the Bhoy, his perforamance was more like the Moussa we all know.
As in many one sided games, the interval breaks up the momentum, and although the Champions still controlled the game, only poor finishing and heroics from the Hearts defence prevented Celtic adding more goals. Although the lead did alllow Brendan the opportunity to introduce Charly Musunda, who just oozed class as he strolled about the pitch.
The Jambos did get a consolation goal from Lafferty, who seems to lead a charmed life when he plays against us. The last twice he’s scored at a tim ewhne he’s lucky to be on the pitch. The leniency shown to him by both Willie Collum last month at Tynecastle and Craig Thomson last night is quite astounding.
Which leads me nicely on to the crass act that manages the Edinburgh side.
When Celtic lost our unbeaten run at Tynecastle in December, manager Brendan Rodgers was full of praise for the home side in how they went about their business. He could easily have griped about the aforementioned Lafferty, who committed FIVE fouls, including a straight elbow on Dedryck Boyata, before being carded, but chose only to praise the victors.
Contrast that to the moaning of Craig Levein last night post match. His greeting about Scott Brown was almost predictable as his team were given a footballing lesson all over the park. But his ‘well that’s 5-3 on aggregate’ jibe was something you’d expect in the playground.
Pity he forgot to mention our 4-1 drubbing of his team in the first league game of the season….
There was a time when the phrase ‘conveyor belt’ and *Rangers (IL) in the same sentence would point to the talent coming out of the then Murray Park. Like most ‘phrases’ associated with the Ibrox club(s), they mean very little and have no substance whatsoever. (The Murray Park conveyor belt, like the floating pitch and casino never materialised.)
Think ‘dignity’ and ‘no surrender‘, two more commonly used ‘sayings’ that emanate from the deluded who support the new club.
The second was a favourite of a one time chairman of the liquidated club, a certain Mr Alistair Johnson. He liked it so much he reminded us during a TV documentary where he was in full denial mode of the cheating going on down Govan way. I’m sure his boast was there’s only two words here that matter and the first one’s ‘No’, or words to that effect!
Johnson, who according to Phil Mac is about to take a greater role in the running of Sevco and the ousting of the Glib and Shameless Lying King, will no doubt be heralded as another Messiah who has business contacts all over the world and will put the new club on a par with Celtic in no time. Well, that’s what Jim Traynors press release will say and the obedient media will repeat verbatim.
But the truth is, Alistair Johnson is just another chancer in the long line of chancers that have resided in the Ibrox board room these last twenty years.
He was David Murray’s crony when the EBT and side letter cheating fiasco hit the fan. He was the chairman when Rangers*(IL) with a tax bill sitting unpaid, decided to give the go ahead to splash out on players after their Champions League elimination by FC Kaunas. The tax bill was of no consequence to Johnson, who like the other old club board members ignored their fiscal duties to try and keep the Establishment club at the top.
Murray (Dodgy), King, Johnson and Murray (Potless) were all directors of the old Ibrox club when they knowingly embarked on the ‘biggest scandal in British sport history’, while giving every other club in Scottish Football two fingers.
First of all, I hope you and your families all had a very Merry Christmas. This time of the year is really special.
And since we’re talking about special. as we all know, a week past Sunday, Celtic’s own special record of 69 domestic games undefeated, came to an end at a slippery Tynecastle against Hearts.
It was bound to happen sometime, but I think the manner of the defeat, four goals to nil, took us all by surprise. For a start, it was the first time Celtic under manager Brendan Rodgers had failed to score in game on on Scottish soil, and for the first time, so many of the Bhoys all underperfomed on the same day.
As expected, the media fallout was just as spectacular as the loss. It was like an early Christmas present for them, particularly those in the SMSM of a blue persuasion, of which there are plenty!
In their feeding frenzy, they absolutely slaughtered our defence, with Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic coming in for most criticism. While their performances that day left a lot to be desired, both were all over the place, what was conveniently forgotten was the statistic that they were still part of the defence who conceded least goals in the league.
They also overlooked the fact that despite the defeat, Celtic were still top of the league by two points, with a game in hand against Partick Thistle to play on the following Wednesday. And it’s fair to say in their quest for sensationalism, they ignored the fallout would only serve to refocus the Champions, something Brendan told them in the post match presser.
When your manager is also a fan, you know there will be a reaction. He hurts as much as we do.
A target of four wins out of four would be set by the gaffer, starting with Partick Thistle at Celtic Park on the Wednesday, followed by our nearest rivals Aberdeen on Saturday, with a trip to Dundee to take on The Dee on Boxing Day. Our last challenge of the four would be a home game against the new club, so many of the headline writers drool over, on the 30th of this month.
Thus far, Celtic have won all three games played since the Tynecastle game, scoring seven goals WITHOUT RETURN! Yip, the shambles of a defence so many criticised a week and a half ago, have not conceded in 270 minutes of league football, including a game against the second placed club, and a tricky away fixture at Dundee, who only a few weeks ago beat the aformentioned new club.
But have Celtic received the same praise for their response to losing our unbeaten record?
Not a chance, the silence of the SMSM tells us they’re not happy that Brendan and the Bhoys have returned to winning ways, especially with their favourites next in line…..
Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run was bound to end at some point, but I doubt if anyone really considered Tynecastle yesterday as the possible venue for it to happen.
Prior to the game Hearts had only won one of their last six games, and Celtic although unbeaten, were playing well within themselves, scraping results instead of winning convincingly.
Regardless, the Champions would have enough in the tank to take care of the Gorgie outfit. Or so we thought.
The signs were ominous early on as player after player found keeping their feet difficult, slipping time and again. The Celtic players that is, the home side had no such problems and were on top of everything we did.
They did have an unsuspecting ally on their side in the shape of referee Willie Collum who allowed the home side to leave as much on the Hoops as they wished without fear of punishment, in particular Kyle Lafferty who repeatedly left an elbow on Dedryck Boyata, then smashed Kieran Tierney on the touchline.
The last incident was his FIFTH offence.
However, those tactics did unsettle the Bhoys, and two unforced errors gave the home side all the encouragement they needed to take a well deserved 2-0 interval lead.
Brendan changed a couple of personnel at half-time, bringing on Stuart Armstrong and Moussa Dembele for Kieran and Olly Ntcham, hoping we could repeat the heroics of Fir Park last season when we overturned a 0-2 deficit into a 4-3 win.
But it wasn’t to be. This time there would be no come back. Sure the Hoops made more of a game of it in the second half, but the same poor decision making that saw us struggle recently was all too evident when it came to playing in a team mate.
Add to that Jozo’s impersonation of Bambi to give the Jam Tarts a third goal, then we knew there was no way back. By the time Craig Gordon foolishly gave away a 75th minute penalty the game was all over.
As the home support gave us a rendition of Merry Christmas Everybody, the Faithful showed the InVIncibles how much they mean to us. When Brendan took the Bhoys into a Huddle after the full time whistle to remind them of their achievement, the Celtic support responded by give the Hoops an ovation to remember.
At that point the scoreline was immaterial.
Celtic under Brendan had gone a British football record breaking 69 domestic games undefeated, completed a domestic Treble as InVIncibles, have now won four consecutive trophies, the first time since Jock Stein was in charge, qualified for two Champions League campaigns, and are still in Europe after Christmas.
We are currently sitting top of the league by two points with a game in hand to play this Wednesday at home to Partick Thistle. Our aim is to take maximum 12 points before the winter break, then we’ll evaluate and go again.
It’s been a real pleasure to witness this last 19 months following the greatest team in world football. Bring on Wednesday…
*PS. We’ll be back at Tynecastle in April for our annual Title Winning Party!
There’s this strange mantra going around that it would be good for the team, and the Scottish game, for Celtic’s unbeaten run of 69 domestic games to come to an end.
What? Are you kidding me?
Who in their right mind is fed up not losing games? Is it because we dropped a couple of daft points at Easter Road last week, after taking a two goal lead, or is it to suit the SMSM who are desperate for The Rangers to make some sort of title challenge?
Either way, I for one will NEVER get fed up wanting Celtic to come out of any game without defeat. Draws? I’m not exactly happy with, but they do happen, sometimes fortunately, other times through our own fault.
Wins? Of course that’s what we all want. And if you don’t you’re at the wrong place!
Losses, no thanks.
The feeling of dejection after Celtic lose is something no fan should want to endure. Luckily for us, we have a manager Brendan Rodgers, and a team led by Scott Brown, who feel the same. Long may it continue.