Celtic Prepare For Their Biggest Game Of The Season So Far
Welcome to 2013-14. Yes, whilst several domestic leagues are only entering their second or third weeks, Celtic are preparing to face Shakhter Karagandy once again in their ninth competitive match so far this season. With a two-nil deficit, several injury concerns, a lack of goals and a propensity for some defensive slackness of late, things could certainly be better at Celtic Park.
However, hope springs eternal.
Whilst Celtic had to make one of the longest conceivable away trips in ‘European’ football last week (I use the word ‘European’ loosely considering Kazakhstan is an Asian country), their opponents, who are currently staying in an Argyle Street hotel and enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, have now had to do the same.
Now, there has been much talk of ritual sacrifice and “One Direction” today (sigh), but the match tomorrow is, of course, the only thing we should all be concerned about this evening. With an incredible amount at stake (and I don’t just mean financially), tomorrow’s match will have a significant bearing on Celtic’s season, regardless of the result.
On Twitter today, the general mood seems to take one of two forms – nervousness and confidence – and in many cases, the two are mixed together to some degree. Having asked how people were feeling about the match on the aforementioned social media site, this became very clear, with certain supporters saying they were “not the slightest bit nervous” whilst others told me they were “concerned” and even “terrified”.
Leaving that point for a moment, let us look at history. Celtic have found themselves returning to Celtic Park two-nil down from an away leg four times in European competition. On three of these four occasions, against F.C. Koln (1992-93), Sporting (1983-84) and St Etienne (1968-69), the Hoops have been successful with regards progressing to the next stage of the competition. Only Real Sociedad (1982-83) have managed to defend their two-nil lead.
Now, no Kazakh side has ever reached the group stages of the Champions League. Undoubtedly, this is the best chance a team like Karagandy have ever had, and they will know that. The attitudes they embrace tomorrow night will likely contribute to the eventual outcome of this fixture.
If they are cool, confident and composed, then it will take a monumental performance from Celtic to overturn the deficit. However, if they are nervous or uneasy, they will be much more likely to make mistakes which the home side will (hopefully) be able to capitalise on.
For this reason, everyone in attendance tomorrow night will likely do their best to make Celtic Park as hostile an atmosphere for the visitors to play in as possible. Of course, if the Celtic players do not perform themselves then all of this will likely be in vain.
Personally, I feel that history is on our side, statistics are on our side and the vast majority of the support will be on our side, but critically, at this point, the scoreline is most certainly not. The players on the park must stand up and give their all in an attempt to change that.
It isn’t a case of all or nothing tomorrow night, as the Europa League would provide a safety net of sorts should the worst happen, but in terms of finance and prestige, the gap between the two competitions is huge. Nobody will even want to consider that at this stage.
The time for talking is almost over. Let’s do this Celtic.
P.S. After a lengthy absence, I’m delighted to say that the website will be updated and back to normal in the coming weeks, with articles and content being added at the same pace as in previous seasons. Included in this will be our annual charitable appeal, information for upcoming away trips to Europe and a couple of interviews with some rather interesting people. Oh, and more about pies.
Thank you all, as ever, for your support.