Celtic take to the pitch tonight at Murrayfield knowing anything less than a 3-0 win will signal the end of their Champions League campaign after last week’s abysmal 4-1 defeat to Legia Warsaw.
Celtic will be without Scott Brown and Efe Ambrose, through injury and suspension respectively, and despite the rhetoric from some quarters it will take a miracle for the Scottish champions to overturn the three goal deficit along with shutting Legia Warsaw out.
Despite Celtic scoring first in Warsaw, they capitulated thereafter as Legia ran rampant notching up four goals that really could have been prevented if Celtic’s defence was up to par. Efe Ambrose was singled out for much of the criticism from the Celtic fans, unfairly in my opinion, as the whole side was to blame for one of the worst European performances in recent years.
Deila was also an easy target for elements of the support and the mainstream media claiming the Norwegian was ‘out of his depth’ but let us remember that this side is 99.9% Neil Lennon’s and not Deila’s. He has brought in fellow Norwegian Berget, who was as impressive as Filip Sebo was during is time in Scotland, so while we can take him to task over his team selection and tactics – can we really blame him for the players not being up to the job?
These are the same players that scraped past Shakhtar Karagandy last season and were soundly beaten in the group stages of the competition – but just like last year the Celtic hierarchy are refusing to dip into their pockets to strengthen the side for a challenge on the European stage. Lawwell’s policy seems to be fingers crossed Celtic qualify and then we will spend some money.
With the real threat of Celtic being dumped out of the competition by an average Polish side, if the result doesn’t go their way then Celtic fans can kiss goodbye to both Fraser Forster and Virgil van Dijk before the league season kicks off this weekend. And there may be a few more faces heading for pastures new, much to the angst of the fans, if there is no Champions League football.
If Celtic are to have any hope of getting a result against Legia, first they must shut up shop, secondly they need to be dominant at the back and in midfield and thirdly they need to take their chances when they come.
Last week’s stats read for pitiful reading from a Celtic point of view:
Goals scored: 1
On target: 2
Off target: 2
Yellow cards: 3
Red cards: 1
Whether the players underestimated the opposition and took their eye off the ball, tonight’s game will be a different affair altogether. A quickfire goal for Celtic would boost the players and fire up the fans, but one thing is for sure – if they play like last week they will be on a hiding to nothing.
Deila can blame anyone he likes from the Scottish clubs, to the players and the club’s pre-season schedule but at the end of the day the buck stops with him – just as it did with Gordon Strachan when he had to watch on as Artmedia Bratislava knocked Celtic out of Europe.
Can Celtic do it? Personally speaking I would like to see them pulling it off but I think it may just be too great a deficit for them to overcome.