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…
Oh, and Moussa stays….