Sep 302013
 

Celtic and Barcelona Fans Look Forward To Tomorrow’s Match

 

 

“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe…”

 

Tomorrow night, Celtic Park will welcome the Catalan giants of Barcelona to the East End of Glasgow for the second time in the space of a year. Celtic’s victory last year will live forever with the majority of Celtic supporters who were fortunate enough to witness it, whether it was in person or via the wonders of modern technology. Below, you will find the thoughts and opinions of several supporters of both sides. Again, all feedback regarding this feature is welcome as we look to improve it as time goes on.

Few teams beat Barcelona nowadays, and even fewer repeat the feat twice in a single year. Can Celtic pull off another memorable result and live the impossible dream? Or will the Catalans leave Glasgow with three important points? Let’s see what the fans think (more opinions will be published here as the match approaches).

 

 

Alexandra Johnson is a Swedish freelance journalist in Barcelona. She supports both FC Barcelona and Malmö FF. She can be followed on Twitter – @alexandrajonson.

 

1. Where do you live and how long have you supported Barcelona?

I’m originally from a town just outside of Malmö in Sweden but have lived in Barcelona for a bit over a year now. I started to support FC Barcelona when I was about 11 years old as my childhood hero and Celtic legend Henrik Larsson signed for the club.

 

2. What attracted you to follow the club?

I’ve always loved football as a kid, but before I saw Barça play I wasn’t too found of watching football matches. They were too long, too boring and I was too restless. But as Henrik signed for the Blaugrana they started to show Spanish football for the first time on Swedish TV. Henrik was my hero so of course I wouldn’t miss his debut for one of what I’ve heard best teams in the world. Henrik started on the bench but by the time he came on I was already in love with this team. I had never had so fun watching football and for the first time I didn’t want the game ever to stop. It wasn’t any special game for Barça just a 2-0 away win over Racing Santander. But I had never enjoyed football that much and since that day I was stuck. It was the way they played how they looked like a bunch of kids on the street just having fun. Then the more I learnt about the club the more it grew on me. The identity and their values was all something I could relate to.

 

3. How do you feel Barcelona have played this season as a whole, and how do you feel they performed in their last match against Almeria?

It’s a different Barça this season. Suddenly the possession isn’t the most important thing in the world anymore. Tata has done some great changes and needed ones with the team. However I’m very concerned about the defence. With that I’m not only talking about the centre-backs but the entire team. We’ve seen quite a few games where Barça been saved at numerous times by Victor Valdés, who has been bloody brilliant this season. Even if the attack from Barça been great and it’s nice to see more players getting on the scoresheet than Leo, there has been to many slip-ups and failed passes lately. However I don’t think this will be a problem in the league but against some of Europe’s top clubs in the Champions League it can create troubles to that point that Victor might won’t be enough to save the Catalans. Except for Victor there was one very positive thing with the Almería game and that was youngster Marc Bartra who probably played his best game to date. I’ve said it for a while now that the CB Barça are seeking already is in the team it’s Bartra, he just hasn’t got the chances he deserves and needs. I think against Almería he showed that and hopefully Tata will put his trust in the boy.

 

4. What are the thoughts of the Barcelona fans regarding their new manager, Tata Martino, and their biggest summer signing, Neymar? Do you think Barcelona are a stronger side now than when they last visited Celtic Park?

I think most Barça fans are happy with Tata, he has done a good job and has the right philosophy. How much everyone loves Pep or wanted to trust Tito I think most fans are agreeing that there needed to come someone from “outside the house” so to speak and Tata was a great choice by the board. When it comes to Neymar most fans love him and they did already before his first game. However I wasn’t too found of the Neymar signing, not because I don’t like him or don’t think he is an amazing player. But the signing came at a time when Barça didn’t need a forward. In need of a new goalkeeper and CB that should have been the clubs priorities. Also the board are constantly saying that the club have it bad economically speaking still they throw away that kind of money on a player they are not in instant need of. It also affected younger players like Deulofeu as well as it made Thiago leave. Not because Thiago and Neymar has the same position but because the club didn’t show any what so ever will to try and keep Thiago in the club and the talks about Neymar getting Thiago’s 11 was made quite publicly without the club doing anything about it. Thiago felt unwanted and left. But that’s just my point of view. In general Neymar is a good player and have done a tremendous work on the pitch since arriving.

Well this time Barça will visit Celtic Park without Lionel Messi, so that makes them a weaker side. But except that I think it’s hard to say. Barça is defiantly another side this time with Tata on the bench instead of Tito. Last season was very hectic for the team mentally with everything that happened off the pitch so in that sense I believe the team “feels” better this time around. However as mentioned the defence is worse but with Victor Valdés in the form of his life, that might not matter.

 

5. Which eleven players would you pick to start the match for Barcelona?

 

celticbarca1

 

Victor Valdés, Adriano, Gerard Piqué, Marc Bartra, Dani Alvés, Busquets, Xavi, Cesc, Iniesta, Pedro, Neymar.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Cristian Tello coming on during the 2nd half. And if Barça somehow would manage to have a very controlled lead, I’d love Tata to put on B-team player Patric, who been fantastic for Barça B this season. Would be a well deserved debut for the kid.

 

6. How do you feel Barcelona will approach the match against Celtic in terms of tactics? Do you think they will need to do anything differently from their last visit to Glasgow?

I believe Barça will go out in the same way as they do against all teams. They know it will be difficult to break down the Celtic defence and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to use the wings a lot. But in general I’d say they’ll go out like they always do. There will be things that are going to be different since the last visit, mainly because there is a new coach with new ideas but the basics are the same.

 

7. What are your overall impressions of Celtic as a football club?

I’ve always loved Celtic. As I mentioned before Henrik Larsson was my childhood hero and well my first ever football shirt that I got when I was about 7 years old was a Celtic shirt with Larsson on the back. To this day that’s my favourite in my huge football shirt collection. But to be honest I never watched especially many Celtic games, they didn’t have the Scottish league on TV in Sweden when I was a kid and then everything became about Barça for me. But I always try to catch their CL games though. But what I love with Celtic is the same thing as with my hometown club Malmö FF. It’s not particular the football but the atmosphere and the fans. As a kid I would go to all Malmö FF’s home games only to enjoy the supporters, since the football was shit. So well my biggest and best impression of Celtic is it’s supporters and the atmosphere. They are always very nice as well and one of my biggest wish is to one day go to Glasgow and get to experience a game at Celtic Park.

 

8. Which Celtic players do you feel Barcelona will need to watch out for in particular?

As I mentioned before, I have sadly not watched especially many Celtic games. But I guess Georgios Samaras is a man to look out for. He created some bit of trouble for Barça at Camp Nou last season I recall. Then it’s always hard to break down Forster in goal, he always seem to be at the top of his game vs Barça.

 

9. Where do you think Barcelona will finish in La Liga this season, and which position do you think they will finish Group H in?

Before the season started looking at the signings, changes and circumstances. I was quite sure Real Madrid would win the La Liga this season, might even be a huge threat for the CL title. And that Barça would have difficult season with all the changes that’s been going on in the club. However Real Madrid have faced bigger troubles then I’ve expected so because of that I think Barça will win La Liga this season. Atletico Madrid will put a big threat though and I’m still in the opinion that Barça are having a bit of problems. But so far Victor have kept them from losing points and if he can keep on with that until the team is back in the right momentum, then they’ll be hard to stop. However if Atletico keeps this up it will be a fight until the end.

I’m confident Barça will win group H but I believe they will face problems later on in the tournament and for the first time in years I’m not too sure they’ll reach the semi-finals.

 

10. What do you think the score will be at Celtic Park?

I’d say Messi will score but I guess not even him can score while not playing. No, it will be a even game but Victor is too good in a form to let anything past him. 2-0 I’d say and put two wild guesses on Andrés Iniesta and Cristian Tello for the goals.

 

 

Craig (@Creg1888) is the editor of “CeltsAreHere.com”.

 

1. Where will you be watching the match?

From the Jock Stein stand. One of the lucky season ticket holders who took advantage of the cheap three match package.

 

2. What would be your starting eleven if you were the Celtic manager?

Forster, Lustig, Ambrose, Van Dijk, Izzy, Matthews, Brown, Ledley (if fit, Mulgrew otherwise), Sammy, Commons, Stokes.

 

celticbarca3

 

3. How would you approach the match in terms of set up and tactics?

Much like the Milan only hoping for better penetration in the final third. Matthews on the right wing to carry the ball up the park when we do have possession but he really needs to get that final ball in. Commons just in behind Stokes with him and Sammy alternating between LM and SS. Has to be one up top, Stokes can hold up the play much like Miku did the last time Barca were in town, can also thread decent balls through for others. Thinking a Virgil Van Dijk header from a corner could be fruitful. I imagine set pieces will be heavily worked on up until the game tomorrow.

 

4. Where do you think Celtic will finish in the group?

All depends on the Ajax double header to be honest. Right now I’m worried we may finish dead last but I hope I’m wrong. We must learn from the Milan game. Yes, we played well but we fell short once again. Must be ruthless now.

 

5. What do you think the score will be tomorrow night (feel free to make a heart and head style prediction if you like)?

My head says it’s a 3-1 win to Barcelona my heart is saying 1-0 Celtic. Whatever happens it will be another fantastic night under the lights at Celtic Park. Win, lose or draw we wouldn’t be anywhere else, would we?

 

 

 

Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) is a freelance football journalist with a particular interest in English, Brazilian, Spanish and German football.

 

1. Where do you live and how long have you supported Barcelona?

I currently live in São Paulo, Brazil. I have supported Barcelona for almost 13 years, a fanatic fan since 2004.

 

2. What attracted you to follow the club?

I started watching Barcelona because of the Brazilian stars that played there. Romário is one of my favorite players, his short and incredible spell at Barcelona was the first thing that made me start looking at the club differently. What really cemented my support for the club was Rivaldo, my favorite Brazilian player of the last generation with some of the most breathtaking performances I’ve ever seen, especially vs Valencia with a hattrick. I became a “true” Barcelona fanatic because of Ronaldinho, his magic is something I’ll never forget, completely changed the club’s history and mentality, leading to the 2006 UCL and the legendary exhibition at the Santiago Bernabéu.

 

3. How do you feel Barcelona have played this season as a whole, and how do you feel they performed in their last match against Almeria?

Barcelona has played well this season considering Tito had to leave for treatment and a coach with no European experience replaced him at the helm, tough job. The team has a lot to improve defensively and I expect to see better football throughout the season, I can’t ask for better results as Martino’s delivered a title (Supercup) and won all the league matches he coached Barcelona. The performance vs Almeria turned out to be a stroll because of their lack of attacking prowess and an early Messi goal to give the team some tranquility, Xavi performance was refreshing.

 

4. What are the thoughts of the Barcelona fans regarding their new manager, Tata Martino, and their biggest summer signing, Neymar? Do you think Barcelona are a stronger side now than when they last visited Celtic Park?

Barça fans are in the middle of a long honeymoon with Tata Martino. Every single one of his press conferences are a joy to listen and he’s completely focused on the footballing aspect of the game, was quick to notice it’s a waste of time to discuss politics and Real Madrid. He’s a very smart manager and his rotation policy is a huge success, so are the results. Some performances have been lacklustre, but it’s natural as he can’t fully implement his ideas after a few months.

The team is significantly better since visiting Celtic Park last season, the mentality has changed, now it’s common knowledge among players that Celtic cannot be underestimated. Neymar could make the difference in the game even without Messi. The Brazilian youngster is a wonder and didn’t took long to fit right into the team as a starter, 2 goals and 5 assists is something to behold.

 

5. Which eleven players would you pick to start the match for Barcelona?

Valdés – Alves, Piqué, Bartra, Adriano – Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta – Neymar, Fàbregas, Pedro.

 

celticbarca5

 

6. How do you feel Barcelona will approach the match against Celtic in terms of tactics? Do you think they will need to do anything differently from their last visit to Glasgow? 

Barcelona will play without Messi, one would thing a lot changes in terms of tactics without him, but I doubt Martino will do anything different than usual, Neymar will stay on the left, Cesc as false 9 and Pedro on the left.

I would particularly use Neymar as a forward with Fàbregas behind and Pedro wide on the left, using the free space Celtic will leave while focusing on the Brazilian.

 

7. What are your overall impressions of Celtic as a football club?

Celtic is one of my favourite clubs in Europe, I can’t say I’m a supporter because I don’t watch the club as much as I’d like, the Scottish League isn’t licensed in Brazil either (unfortunately). I sympathize because some of the nicest people I’ve met on football support Celtic and the undying love people have for the club is wonderful, I feel it’s the only club that rivals Borussia Dortmund in terms of cheerfulness. The relationship between Barcelona and Celtic is great too, which makes it even better. There’s a mutual respect between clubs.

There’s also the 1967 European Cup Final, a fantastic attacking exhibition by Jock Stein’s men that overcame Herrera’s Catenaccio. Suffice to say it’s absolutely wonderful to see attacking football winning over one of the greatest defensive minded coaches of all time. My favourite European final along the 2005 UCL.

 

8. Which Celtic players do you feel Barcelona will need to watch out for in particular?

Barcelona has to watch out for Samaras. The Greek attacker scored a hattrick in his last game and given the currently dodgy defence he could score anytime, especially with Piqué having positional nightmares lately. Scoring on Forster is the main difficulty, had two amazing matches against Barça last season and I’m certain he’ll make the difference again.

 

9. Where do you think Barcelona will finish in La Liga this season, and which position do you think they will finish Group H in?

I think Barcelona will win La Liga, Real Madrid is 5 points behind in the middle of a crisis and Atlético Madrid won’t be able to keep up until the end of the season. Barça will probably finish the Group H as the leader, although slip ups against Milan and Celtic could complicate things a bit.

 

10. What do you think the score will be at Celtic Park? 

Match will end in a draw, 1-1 or 2-2.
 

 

 

Matt is a Celtic supporter from the United States of America (@monbud).

 

1. Where will you be watching the match?

I’ll be watching the match from my office here on the East Coast of the US. Have the Fox Soccer subscription which shows all the CL and Europa League matches so it’s a great way to keep up. Luckily the IT guy is a huge football fan and a Barca supporter so I’ll hear no cross words about my bandwidth use.

 

2. What would be your starting eleven if you were the Celtic manager?

 

celticbarca4

 

Forster; Lustig-Ambrose-Virgil-Matthews; Boerrigter-Brown-Mulgrew-Samaras; Commons; Stokes. I think with Ledley a sure miss this is really the only XI that makes any sense v Barca. I don’t think Forrest is match-fit enough to start this one so I slotted in Derk, who I hope can get back on defence as Samaras certainly won’t.

 

3. How would you approach the match in terms of set up and tactics?

As noted I think the wings are going to need to be extremely defensively responsible in addition to being able to make some forays forward into the Barcelona back, which is their weakest spot. Bit of a catch-22 for any Barca opponent as they are so good up front even without Messi, but they can be exploited at the back, but the strategy needs to be perfectly balanced and executed. There’s going to be 10 minutes of the sides feeling each other out so someone like Samaras or Stokes capitalizing early would be a huge lift for the Celts.

Otherwise you just have to hope the back line does its job. Some physicality from the centre backs is essential to keep Neymar and company from getting too settled, but they need to keep their heads. Efe and Virgil are really the only two centre backs we have on the roster and a yellow or heaven forbid a red in this game would handicap the pairing considerably in the rest of the group stages. I thought the narrow setup last season worked really well, Celtic can afford to give Barcelona the sides as crosses into the box are not their strength.

Up front, Stokes and Commons above all need to be responsible with the ball, there was way too much foolery and bad passing vs Kilmarnock at the weekend and that certainly isn’t going to fly in the Champions League. Every possession needs to be curated well and no chance wasted, especially on set pieces which is where I think Celtic can steal a goal. Corners need to be a lot better than they have been especially off the foot of Commons. Mulgrew seems to be on a bit of an upswing; I think he’ll drop back into defence as the game goes on but his ability on free kicks is important. Broony probably has the toughest job of them all replacing Wanyama against a really solid Barca midfield, and he won’t have much help there from Samaras or Derk/Forrest…

And then finally Forster needs to be La Gran Muralla again instead of the tentative octopus-in-high-socks performance we’ve seen quite a few times already this year. I have full confidence in all of the players bringing their A-games tomorrow though, they’ll have to.

 

4. Where do you think Celtic will finish in the group?

A lot depends on the Ajax-Milan result tomorrow, although I believe that third place is more likely to happen than last place, and another stunner of a second-place finish is still possible.

 

5. What do you think the score will be tomorrow night (feel free to make a heart and head style prediction if you like)?

So far this year we’ve seen Celtic play down to some really poor domestic competition, and aside from Cliftonville they played down to Elfsborg and Shakhter Karagandy as well. But on the flip side they played well up to Milan and should have at least drew that game. So I’ll be optimistic and say tomorrow night will be a tidy 1-1 draw with a second-half goal from Samaras!

C’mon the Hoops!!!

 

Josh Sajjad is a Celtic supporter from Glasgow (@jaysajjad on Twitter).

 

1. Where will you be watching the match?

I’ll be watching the game in the Lisbon Lions Stand, row BB, seat 17!

 

2. What would be your starting eleven if you were the Celtic manager?

This is a tough one. I’d go 4-5-1:

 

celticbarca2

 

3. How would you approach the match in terms of set up and tactics?

Best way to approach it is to keep the ball/possession for the first 15 minutes, thus not giving them time to settle as they so often do. With no Messi they don’t actually have an out and out forward so CB’s must look to be aggressive. Saying that, they’re defence is the weakest part so getting Sammy and Forrest in some space and letting them attack the defence could go a long way.

Possession and counter attacking would be key for me!

 

4. Where do you think Celtic will finish in the group?

If we’d have beaten Milan I would’ve said 2nd, now I’d take 3rd place and think we’ll get it.

 

5. What do you think the score will be tomorrow night (feel free to make a heart and head style prediction if you like)?

Heart tells me 3-1 to us, head says 1-0 either way!

Sep 242013
 

A Short Tribute

 

billboland

 

Yesterday evening, Bill Boland, the man who was the oldest surviving ex-Celtic player, died at the age of 93.

In all honesty, I could easily sit here and pen thousands upon thousands of words about Bill and his life, but for the sake of brevity on a sad day I shall keep this short.

A couple of years ago now, whilst my notions of writing a book about Celtic were just that – notions – it was Bill’s willingness to talk to me which really sparked my project into life. Not only did he give an aspiring author a chance, he gave me his time – and a fair amount of it. Visits which were meant to last an hour turned into entire afternoons with some regularity, as Bill happily recalled memories of days long gone by.

Throughout all of my contact with Mr Boland I found him to be the perfect gentleman. As a member of the older generation, he was not only polite and courteous, but also quick-witted (if a little deaf at points) and funny.

And now, with its publication scheduled for approximately two months from now, I feel I can say that, without Bill Boland, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” may never have become a reality. In all likelihood, it would still be nothing more than a notion in my head.

I am pleased to say that Mr Boland did read his chapter in the book and he was very happy with it. This meant a lot to me and it continues to do so. Bill’s love for Celtic Football Club was simply infectious and to sit and listen to him discuss the Club was just incredible – after all, not many people could compare the likes of Jimmy McGrory and Henrik Larsson having seen both of them in the flesh!

On a personal level, I will never forget the kindness which he showed to me and I cannot thank his family enough for accommodating me with regards visiting Bill. My thoughts and prayers are with them at what must be a very difficult time.

Finally, I feel there is no better way to conclude than with the words of the man himself. Rest in peace, Bill.

 

“Playing for Celtic Football Club has always filled me with tremendous pride, and it will continue to do so as long as I live…I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Sep 192013
 

Remembering One Of The Greatest Celts

 

 

Please find the details of this weekend’s Celtic Graves Society event below. If anyone has any questions you can contact the fantastic folk involved with the group directly or speak to me and I’ll do my best to help you out if I can. A map of the area surrounding the cemetery can also be found below.

I will be there helping to guide people from the entrances to the graveside as the cemetery site is rather large, so feel free to say hello should you wish.

 

maleycomm

 

P.S. Larger versions of the map below available on request.

cgsmap

Sep 172013
 

A Brief Look At Celtic’s Chances In Milan

 

 

“I buoni nuotatori al fin si affogano” – “Good swimmers are often drowned”

 

Having had a look at SkyBet this evening, I wonder how many punters tomorrow night (who have no interest in the fortunes of AC Milan or Celtic outside of their relevance to any prospective coupon) will take the Italian side as a home win. Milan are 4/9 to win the match, with a draw presently 7/2 and a Celtic win 7/1. Whilst a 4-0 Italian victory is 18/1, a 2-1 equivalent for the Scots is as much as 28/1. Regardless, it is clear that the majority of people expect an AC Milan victory tomorrow night.

Ironically, the caveat to this is that many Celtic supporters, and even a significant number of AC Milan fans, do not think it will be so easy for the Serie A side. As is outlined in our interviews feature with a couple of Milan supporters (which can be found HERE), many of the Rossoneri are far from happy with their side’s performances of late and, notably, their current head coach Massimilano Allegri.

Despite leading Milan to the Serie A title in 2010-11 in his first season in charge of the Italian giants, he is now far from popular with the ranks of the club’s supporters. At the end of the league winning season, eighty-two points were amassed by the Rossoneri. However, since then, such points tallies have declined to eighty and then seventy-two. In fact, the last league season in which Milan conceded more goals than they did last season was 2000-01.

So far in this new campaign, Milan’s league record reads as follows: “Three matches played – one win, one draw and one loss – six scored, five conceded.” Ok, so it’s clear Milan aren’t quite the footballing force they often can be. However, it is worth remembering that they comprehensively beat impressive opponents in PSV Eindhoven (4-1 over two legs) in order to reach the group stages themselves, so they are no mugs.

Focusing on Celtic for a moment, it will be very interesting to see which starting line up Neil Lennon chooses tomorrow night. Several debates rage on, and whilst I could write thousands of words on them, I will simply highlight a few of them briefly before telling you what my starting line up would be. Of course, Neil Lennon’s choice is the only one that matters, but nonetheless.

 

celticmilan1

 

Beginning up front, we have the “Stokes or Pukki” conundrum, as it would be a bold move for Lennon to play with two out and out strikers tomorrow. Presuming only one pure striker will be chosen, it will likely be one of these two men. The first, Anthony Stokes, has been somewhat maligned at times during his Celtic career. In the majority of cases, this criticism has been largely unwarranted. With 51 goals in 113 Celtic appearances, his strike ratio is a little over .45, and if he continues in his current vein of form, it looks set to rise notably.

So, can Anthony step out from Gary Hooper’s shadow? Or will new signing Teemu Pukki take on the role of Celtic’s main goalscoring threat?

In all honesty, that’s probably a debate for another day, but I feel Neil Lennon’s striking choice tomorrow will be telling. Pukki played well on his debut as a substitute, taking his goal calmly and even getting in the faces of some of his opposition. In this regard, no one could have asked any more of him. However, Stokes has been magnificent this season, and without him, Celtic may not be in the group stages at all. Few other players who have  been so influential in recent weeks at other clubs will wonder whether or not they would start in such a match, but debate rages on within the Celtic support. Personally, as much as I like the look of Teemu Pukki, I’d start Stokes – and I must confess that, a season ago, I would never have started Stokes as a lone European striker, but like most football fans, I know I can be somewhat fickle.

 

 

Another debate which continues is who Celtic will play on the right side of midfield. With James Forrest out, presumably it will be a straight shoot-out between Adam Matthews (who took a knock at the weekend) and Derk Boerrigter. The Welshman has excelled in recent weeks in a more advanced role in the side, and his progression into midfield has allowed Mikael Lustig to solidify his place as our right back in recent weeks. The Swede is perhaps the more defensively minded of the two, and his height and experience certainly adds to the side, so I feel he may well hold onto his spot tomorrow night. Anyway, Boerrigter or Matthews? That is the question. If he is fit and able to complete ninety minutes, I would play Matthews, but presuming that will not be the case I would start Derk Boerrigter – he is becoming more confident in the side and I hope he will excel on the European stage. Equally, having Matthews on the bench (even if he is only fit enough to complete, for example, half an hour) will add various weapons to Lennon’s arsenal with regards his ability to change Celtic’s approach mid-match tomorrow.

Next, we come to Charlie Mulgrew, the undroppable man of sorts. Many supporters, whilst they admire Charlie’s ability and his achievements, do feel that he has been shoehorned into some Celtic line ups in the past, and tomorrow may be no different. If I was to play Charlie, I would start him at left back in place of Honduran Emilio Izaguirre. Presumably, Milan will have the majority of position tomorrow night, and therefore the defensive prowess of our full backs, regardless of who they may be, will be tested to the hilt. With this in mind, I wonder whether Mulgrew would be a better option than Izaguirre, as his extra height and his ability to deliver set pieces may come in very handy indeed.

 

 

Finally, it has been revealed that Joe Ledley is carrying a thigh strain, so if he was not to start the match then it opens up the possibility of Mulgrew featuring in midfield (not his best position in my opinion) or something else entirely. Ledley sat out tonight’s training session at the San Siro, but that may have been purely precautionary. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how Celtic line up in the north of Italy – a country we have never won in.

All in all, this is undoubtedly a good time to play AC Milan. We may manage to gain a positive result in the San Siro, and I wholeheartedly hope we do. However, our opponents are still a very good side, and anything other than defeat will be a great result for Celtic.

As the Italian proverb highlighted at the start of this article states, “Good swimmers are often drowned”. Essentially, this warns even the most talented individuals or groups against the dangers of overconfidence morphing into complacency. Yes, on paper Milan should defeat Celtic and they may well do so, but anything can happen in football. If the Celts play to their best, then who knows what will happen?

I, for one, think it will be a very close affair. Whilst my heart says we will draw 1-1, my head tells me a 2-1 loss is more likely, but if we play to our best, then I believe anything is possible.

The official UEFA press pack for the match can be viewed HERE.

 

“Non doe seguir amor chi non ha volare” – “A faint heart never won a fair lady”

 

Sep 172013
 

The Thoughts Of Both Sets Of Supporters – AC Milan v Celtic

 

 

Welcome to the first of six of these Champions League features, allowing you to digest not only the views of myself and another Celtic supporter before an upcoming match, but also those of a few fans of our opposition.

Therefore, without further ado, let’s hear what the fans of Milan have to say.

Please note, the following AC Milan players are set to miss the match (or face late fitness tests), despite the fact some of them are mentioned in potential line ups below: Abate, Bonera, El Shaarawy, De Sciglio, Kaka, Montolivo, Niang, Pazzini, Poli, Silvestre.

 

qasa

 

Qasá Alom is a multilingual BBC journalist who has worked with the BBC World Service. He is a long term supporter of AC Milan.

 

1/2. Where do you live and how long have you supported AC Milan?

I live in England and have supported AC Milan for 19 years, I started to watch Italian football like most people of my generation on Channel 4 and was attracted to the spectacular colours and passion of the fans in the stadium. Unfortunately It was the beginning of the end for the majestic football the Rossoneri played at that time that began with Sacchi and the Dutch Trio, however the loyalty to the club did not waiver and if anything has only grown stronger in the years since then.

 

3. How do you feel AC Milan have played this season as a whole, and how do you feel they performed in their last match against Torino?

The side have not played very well at all this season. They look disjointed, confused and lacking an identity. This is something quite notorious under the current manager, Massimiliano Allegri, whose teams typically all start very slowly before gathering momentum throughout the year and finishing strongly. Another hallmark of Milan under Allegri is a reliance on a pivotal striker; first of all it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then from his shadows came Stephan El Sharaawy quite out of nowhere and this mantle of being the talisman has now been taken by Mario Balotelli. The team is usually focused around this central figure, providing him with the ball in the final third and expecting him to create magic out of nowhere, either through goals or assists. This was again on display against Torino, as Milan’s defence was typically unorganized, the midfield rather stoic and a late Balotelli penalty was needed to rescue a point. However one bright spark of note was on display against Torino, the emergence of Andrea Poli as a breath of fresh air in the teams midfield. This was first of all on display in Milan’s defeat to newly-promoted Verona, as he scored a fantastic goal with quick feet and great link-up play with Super Mario, and was confirmed against Torino as his pluckiness, effervescence and willingness to make darting runs created both goals.

 

4. Which AC Milan players do you feel Celtic will need to pay particular attention to?

In 2007, a Brazilian Wizard starved of space and the ball called Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite was finally supplied with a scrap of what he had been craving – a through ball and a chance to take on Celtic’s defensive line –  by a blonde haired midfielder called Massimo Ambrosini. Kaka gorged on the opportunity to gobble up space and in doing so rode challenge after challenge and scored an injury time winner to break Celtic hearts and send Milan into the quarter finals of the champions league and on their way to winning ‘Ol Big Ears for a seventh time. That man, Kaka may be injured for this tie, however his effect across the club has already been noted and his performance against Celtic in the past will be an example for the real key man Mario Balotelli will want to follow. For Super Mario the Champions League is new territory that he is desperate to be a leading figure for. The Italian international has proved himself in the premier league, Serie A and after his exploits at the Confederations cup and Euro 2012 the International Stage as well. Yet nonetheless he has been restricted to cameo appearances and the periphery at Man City and Inter, but at AC Milan he has the opportunity to be start his own quest for glory, much like Kaka in 2007.

 

5. Which eleven players would you pick to start the match for AC Milan?

Unfortunately Milan is currently facing a huge injury crisis at the moment that has removed many of Milans key threats and best performers. The Rossoneri will miss the calming influence and metronomic passing of captain Riccardo Montolivo, the talismanic experience of Kaká, as well as the bursting energy of Stephan El Sharaawy in attack. However arguably the greatest loss will be the absence to both first choice full-backs Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio. Both players came through the youth ranks and Abate has graduated to being one of the clubs most consistent and strongest performers with ferocious pace and improving offensive play. 20 year old De Sciglio is rated as one of the brightest talents and impressed for Italy in the Confederations cup.

As a result of all the absences, Milan will play a patchwork quilt of a team and rely on being compact, not giving up space and the brilliance of Balotelli. The crowd will also play a key part in intimidating Celtic with a cauldron like atmosphere. There will be a debut for Slovenian journeyman Valter Birsa in the wake of all the injuries and a raft of talented yet inexperienced Youth team players on the bench.

Expected 4-3-1-2: Abbiati; Zaccardo Mexes Zapata Constant; Muntari De Jong Nocerino; Birsa; Matri Balotelli

 

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Personal 4-3-3: Abbiati; Zaccardo Mexes Zapata Constant; Muntari De Jong Nocerino (Poli); Robinho Matri Balotelli

 

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7. What are your overall impressions of Celtic as a football club?

Celtic are a great with history, tradition, class and great booming support. Despite the recent slump due to the financial state of Scottish football, Celtic remain a competitive side that no European team enjoys playing. As a result they fall into the category of clubs that must be respected and feared when played at home. Nonetheless it’s a match Milan would expect to win.

 

8. Which Celtic players do you feel AC Milan will need to watch out for in particular?

The Rossoneri are notoriously atrocious at set-pieces, as a result corner kicks, free-kicks and any ball coming in from outside the box will pose a great danger. Giorgios Samaras has come up with many a crucial goal for the Bhoys in Europe and I expect something similar will happen tonight.

 

9. Where do you think AC Milan will finish in Serie A this season, and which position do you think they will finish Group H in?

Third in Serie A, Qualify in 2nd place with 8 points.

 

10. What do you think the score will be at the San Siro?

A tight game that Milan will eventually scrape through 2-1. Goals from Balotelli, Poli and Samaras.

 

 

Jacopo Piotto is a “Football Broadcasting Professional, Stats Collector and Serie A Guest Writer with www.whoscored.com”. He lives in Tuscany, Italy and can be followed @jacopopiotto on Twitter.

 

1. Where do you live and how long have you supported AC Milan?

I live in Tuscany, close to both Livorno (where I was born and raised) and Pisa. I’ve always supported AC Milan, I’d say starting from 1994, when I was seven. I remember watching the UCL final against Barcelona (4-0).

 

2. What attracted you to follow the club?

I have to admit Milan were winning everything in those years. I grew up in Sacchi’s shadow, and Capello’s Milan was peaking when I reached the “football age” (seven, as said). Also, my father is a Milan fan and bought me a Baresi shirt when I was a kid, but I had chosen already.

 

3. How do you feel AC Milan have played this season as a whole, and how do you feel they performed in their last match against Torino?

Milan played quite badly against both Verona and Torino. They had a good game against Cagliari, in which the opponents were too weak to give Milan trouble. Both Cagliari and PSV victories came from technical superiority, but Milan failed to develop a proper playing style. There seems to be no tactical idea yet. Allegri always liked to use the flanks and was building a 4-3-3 (used against PSV and Verona) with wingers, but the club seems to be forcing him to play an outdated 4-3-1-2 (as happened against Cagliari and Torino).

 

4. Which AC Milan players do you feel Celtic will need to pay particular attention to?

In this moment Milan have no attacking plan, so all passes will look for Balotelli (which may play closer to the midfield than Matri). A double marking on him, with a player to cover the goal and another to cut the passes could do the job.

 

5. Which eleven players would you pick to start the match for AC Milan?

My pick would be going back to the 4-3-3. I don’t know if Montolivo, Kakà, El Shaarawy and Poli will be available, and Abate and De Sciglio probably won’t. I’d say Abbiati – Zaccardo, Zapata, Mexes, Emanuelson – Montolivo/Poli, de Jong (sitting deep), Muntari, Birsa as LW (as he’s the only left footed attacking player), Balotelli, El Shaarawy as RW.

 

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6. How do you feel AC Milan will approach the match against Celtic in terms of tactics?

Milan will probably go 4-3-1-2 with Birsa or Robinho behind Balotelli and Matri. In case there’s an injury emergency in midfield, one between Emanuelson and Costant will play there. Muntari, de Jong + Montolivo/Poli/Nocerino is the first choice. Same defence seen against Torino, as there are no further options.

 

7. What are your overall impressions of Celtic as a football club?

I can’t really say that I follow the Scottish league, but Celtic is one of the clubs that make you think of Champions League. Differently from some “new” superpowers in European football, Celtic have that charm that makes you think you don’t want to have to travel to Glasgow. It’s going to be tricky anyway.

 

8. Which Celtic players do you feel AC Milan will need to watch out for in particular?

I don’t know the team enough to answer this one. Celtic seem quite green in terms of Champions League experience, but I really can’t tell.

 

9. Where do you think AC Milan will finish in Serie A this season, and which position do you think they will finish Group H in?

Milan will probably fight with Inter (favoured to get third), Roma and Fiorentina for the third place and UCL qualifying. Anything more than that would mean that Napoli would have dropped points unexpectedly. Juventus still comfortably on top. I expect Milan to finish second in the UCL group.

 

10. What do you think the score will be at the San Siro?

Maybe 1-0 for the hosts, considering experience and the home factor.

 

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Next up, we speak to Rohit Damera, a fan of AC Milan from Mumbai, India. He can be followed on Twitter @rossoneriguy.

 

1. Where do you live and how long have you supported AC Milan?

I live in Mumbai, India. My Dad always used to talk about seeing our Dutch Trinity Van Basten, Rijkaard and Gullit play for Milan, it was somewhat of an influence and that time my heroes Kaka and Ronaldo used to play for Milan, so I started supporting Milan and have been since the past 6 years.

 

2. What attracted you to follow the club?

Well, at that time, both my heroes Kaka and Ronaldo used to play for Milan and naturally I started watching Milan’s matches and the class of players like Paolo Maldini, Kaka, the passionate cries of Gennaro Gattuso and Filippo Inzaghi, the elegance of Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf;  a squad, which oozed in stature, grace and sheer royalty. These weren’t a band of men swimming in their millions, banging sexy supermodels and smashing their sports cars intoxicated by liquor. These were men of values, representing a club soaked in decorated history, men of pride and honour.

Growing up, I envisaged to be a man of class and distinction, which is why these attributes of the club immediately captivated me, hooking me into a lifetime commitment of loyalty and allegiance. I instantly knew I had found something that would stick.

 

3. How do you feel AC Milan have played this season as a whole, and how do you feel they performed in their last match against Torino?

Apart from our CL qualifier at home against PSV which we won 3-1, we were pathetic and piss poor. Juvenile tactics, medieval training methods. clueless manager, we are ridiculed for our defence now which we were known and recognized for before, that explains our entire story. The last match against Torino has been the worst of the season till now, more so ever than our season opener against promoted side against Hellas Verona. Our defence was in shambles, our manager Max Allegri made sure Kaka would look clueless the entire team he was there on the field and this match, so early in the season proved the costliest as it injured two of our main players, Monto and Poli and Kaka had a knock.

 

4. Which AC Milan players do you feel Celtic will need to pay particular attention to?

Considering our injuries : Abate, De Sciglio, Silvestre, Bonera, Poli, Montolivo, El Shaarawy, Pazzini. Definitely Balotelli – All our attack i.e build up play and anything and everything goes through him and De Jong – Beast in our midfield, stops almost every attack that goes through him. Need not worry about Kaka at all since he isn’t match fit entirely, not used to Allegri’s system and picked up a knock against Torino.

 

5. Which eleven players would you pick to start the match for AC Milan?

I would go with a 3-5-2, 3-4-1-2 system since our defence is in shambles. My starting 11 would be: Abbiati; Zaccardo Mexes, Zapata; Constant, De Jong, Muntari, Urby; Kaka; Balotelli, Matri.

 

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Allegri’s preferred line up considering our injuries: Abbiati; Constant/Urby (LB), Zapata, Mexes, Zaccardo (RB); Urby/Nocerino, De Jong, Muntari; Kaka; Matri, Balotelli.

 

6. How do you feel AC Milan will approach the match against Celtic in terms of tactics?

Allegri is the most clueless manager I have ever seen, cannot believe we didn’t bring in Seedorf over the summer for this blasphemy. His tactics have always been one dimensional, in his first two seasons, Pass the ball to Ibrahimovic, 3rd season – Shaara in 1st half of season, Balo in the 2nd half of season and now, pass to Kaka/Balo as evidenced in the match against Torino. Rest, his play is always a rigid, everyone should help out in defence including attackers which tire them out, has medieval training methods which led to atleast one player getting a knock every match.

 

7. What are your overall impressions of Celtic as a football club?

Pride of Scotland. Easily their derbies with Rangers can be counted as one of the top 5 derbies in the world. Amazing fan support and Celtic Park is bloody intimidating as evidenced last season against Barcelona.

 

8. Which Celtic players do you feel AC Milan will need to watch out for in particular?

By how much I followed Celtic this year, Kris Commons and Fraser Forster. They definitely have the hunger to lead Celtic to glory and the team as a whole too as opposed to Milan.

 

9. Where do you think AC Milan will finish in Serie A this season, and which position do you think they will finish Group H in?

With the quality in the squad, I thought we would win the Scudetto but with Allegri at the helm, a 3rd place definitely which he needs to achieve anyway as it is his objective set by the board/Galliani/Berlo. We will finish 2nd in the group.

 

10. What do you think the score will be at the San Siro?

2-1 to Celtic.

 

 

And now, for the thoughts of the away supporters. First up, we hear from Lee Lambert, a psychology student from Glasgow who is travelling to Milan. He can be followed @leethecaptain.

 

1. How do you feel about the upcoming trip, how are you getting there and what do you expect from it?

I’m surprisingly optimistic for the game. Looks like the ideal time to play Milan with the injury list they seem to have developed over the past week. I think it’s our best chance to get points away from home and hope to see us go for it! I’m flying from Manchester to Milan then staying in a hostel just off of Piazza del Duomo. It will be my third away trip after Rennes in 2011 and Barca last year. Both were fantastic trips with loads of great memories but I’m yet to see us win away in Europe (although a lot of Celtic fans will say the same haha). Hoping for a friendly atmosphere, getting on with the locals, having ourselves a party and if we can, manage getting a point or three to take back to Glasgow.

 

2. What team would you start and why?

 

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I would start with Forster in goals with a back four of Izaguirre, Van Dijk, Ambrose and Lustig. Van Dijk and Ambrose are looking promising paired together and both can play with the ball at their feet; Ambrose coming onto a game over the past few weeks. Izaguirre and Lustig will offer width and support going forward which might be key if we are to take the game to Milan. I think Mulgrew will join Ledley and Brown in the middle of the park, as the sitting midfielder, as he looked very competent in the two recent Scotland games in that role. I would opt then for a front 3 of Samaras, Commons and Stokes. Sammy is our European talisman and can be unplayable at times. Commons will provide the creativity and has an eye for goal. I feel Stokes should start as his recent form has been great.

 

3. How would you approach the match?

I think it’s our best chance to attack them and come home with something. Their fullbacks are out injured as is Kaka and El Sharaawy and it is early in the group, where our finishing place won’t be determined, so I think we should go with intention to score, rather than invite pressure and hold back for a 0-0.

 

4. Where do you think Celtic will finish in the group?

I think we will finish third above Ajax but with Celtic you never know. Our home form shows we could get 9 points but we have a weakened side from last season and I just think getting to this stage is an achievement in itself.

 

5. What do you think the score will be?

I’m going to go for 2-1 Celtic. Come on you Bhoys in green!

 

Finally, I’d like to thank the three gentlemen above who took the time to share their thoughts with us. My own views on the upcoming match with AC Milan will be published tonight.

 

Sep 032013
 
First Meeting, Second Season

 

 

In the middle of August, I met with David Stothers (General Manager, Catering and Cleaning) and John Paul Taylor (Supporter’s Liaison Officer) at Celtic Park. Firstly, allow me to apologise for the relative lateness of this resultant article. In the days following this meeting, I was busy with other matters and then, in all honesty, with the run-up to the game against Shakhter Karagandy and the ensuing Champions League draw, I didn’t think many people would look twice at something about food. Anyway, my apologies once again for this delay.

Moving on, this meeting was a continuation of our efforts to see the match day catering on offer to Celtic supporters improve, and it marked the beginning of our second season of talks with the relevant groups. No representative from the catering company which runs the kiosks inside the ground (“The Lindley Group”) was present.

Unsurprisingly, much of our discussions considered the views held by many within the fan base that very little has improved over the course of the off-season.

Personally, the only improvement which I have noted is waiting times, but whether this is due to increased efficiency or less customer sales is unclear. It is also worthy of mention that Lindley have rolled out their new hot dogs etc (which were only previously available in particular areas) around the whole ground.

With regards pricing, to my knowledge at least, the only increases in price over the course of the summer came in the form of meal deals and Bovril. However, you may not have noticed the increase in the prices of the meal deals, as at the last home fixture, some areas were still displaying the old signage, hiding rises which were as high as £1.40 in one case (see the photographs below).

 

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The Club wished to re-emphasise that, whilst they can offer advice to Lindley regarding pricing, they cannot alter it themselves. However, efforts continue to be made to highlight the strong feeling that pricing within the stadium remains too high. Equally, they said they hoped the sign issue would be addressed by Lindley, but as of the last home match, this had not occurred.

Next came the issues regarding which food and drink is, and subsequently is not, allowed to be brought into Celtic Park by any supporter. On the surface of it, the Club agreed that there was nothing to stop you from taking virtually any foodstuff to the football, providing it was not in a closable container. Acknowledgements were made that such rules were somewhat grey in some areas, and therefore we have asked that this is clarified as soon as possible, so that not only supporters, but also police and stewards are aware of which items are acceptable/unacceptable.

For example, I know that many supporters with children would prefer to buy a multi-pack of Capri Sun’s in a supermarket (£2.98 for ten in Tesco) and bring one along to each match rather than having to pay for one inside the ground (£1.50 inside Celtic Park – a little over five times the supermarket price – although it is important to note that Celtic Park is, of course, not a supermarket). This may seem like a relatively insignificant saving at first glance, but in tough financial times, small savings can (and often do) make big differences to many families.

Now, allow me to indulge you with a quick example. Say you take your child to twenty home matches this season, paying for a Capri Sun each time at the kiosks – for these, you will hand over £30 in total. However, if you were to buy the same number of drinks from Tesco, it would cost you £5.96 – a saving of over £24 throughout the year. Of course, many people have, for example, two children, and so this saving would rise in such situations to over £48 (less than £2 shy of the price of one of the kid’s season tickets for the next season).

Anyway, at the moment, whilst both of the gentlemen from Celtic present at the meeting said they believed these drinks were currently allowed to be brought into the stadium (and presumably they are – since they can be bought inside), we have received a couple of reports of them being refused entry over the last year and I myself have witnessed a child being told they had to drink their juice outside by a steward.

Regardless, the issue is clear – different stewards/police officers seem to have vastly differing opinions on what is, and what is not, allowed inside Celtic Park. Therefore, I feel the Club and the police must work together in order to clarify and publicise these regulations from a common sense perspective.

Later in proceedings, I reiterated our position that, whilst the majority of supporters who contacted me continued to be unhappy with the standard of service on offer to them (whether it be price, product quality, waiting times or anything else), I could not support any potential renewal of the Football Club’s current deal with Lindley – which is currently in its final season.

If this were to happen, I would, personally, withdraw my custom and urge other supporters to consider similar action. Of course, I would never ask a parent not to feed a hungry child or a supporter not to buy a hot drink if they were cold, but you get the gist. Thankfully, this remains a far off prospect as yet.

Finally, the Club have invited me to gather a group of supporters together for another fans meeting to be held sometime in September. Therefore, whilst spaces are limited, if you would be interested in attending to voice your thoughts, please feel free to let me know. Equally, if you have had an experience at Celtic Park with regards the catering that you wish to highlight (but not in person), please contact me via “@MaleysBhoys” on Twitter or, alternatively, by clicking the “Contact Us” tab at the top of this page.

I would once again like to take this opportunity to thank Celtic Football Club, specifically Mr Stothers and Mr Taylor, for taking the time to discuss our ongoing concerns.

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