With the celebrations from our derby day victory still echoing around Celtic Park, Ange Postecoglou took his seat for his first Champions League pre-match press conference. A five year absence from Europe’s premier club competition will come to an end tonight when the champions of Scotland take on the reigning European Champions under the lights at Celtic Park.
The 4 nil drubbing of our city rivals unfortunately came at a cost, when our talismanic forward Kyogo had to be substituted in the opening minutes. The question on everyone’s lips since 12:35 on Saturday was – would the Japanese idol be fit to lead the line on Tuesday night?
The boss delivered the news we’d been waiting for – “…….. he trained this morning, looked ok…….he’s available” now Ange needs to decide whether the free scoring forward will start the match or not come 8pm on Tuesday night. Less encouraging was the immediate outlook for Carl Startfelt who took a knock on Saturday, with his knee still giving him trouble, it is likely he will be out for a couple of weeks.
Given it’s only been 10 days since the draw was made and the fixtures released, the team have had very little time to drop their guard to look forward to the glamour of an opening night fixture against the most decorated football club in Europe. Three matches, 17 goals scored and only 1 conceded is a perfect preparation and shows the focus driven by the manager and fed through the team.
I asked the manager when he started to think about the big European match, his response “The words Champions League were banished after the draw…until say 3pm Saturday after the derby – we really had to focus on what’s the next challenge, the next step is the important one. The results have been great and the performances have got stronger and stronger”. He continued “you could sense it at training (today) the Champions league balls are there, they (the players) know it’s a different competition’ a different feeling. From then on that’s when you think about it.”
The footballing philosophy so widely recognised under Ange and the style of play witnessed week in and week out on the pitch over the last year will not be something the boss will be looking to sacrifice too easily. Always focused on testing players and himself, the application will be no different against Real Madrid, this will be another test to see how far we have come as a team under this exciting style.
Make no mistake about it, expectations are high amongst the Celtic support, our brand of football is exciting, its quick and is backed up by a desire from the players and manager to play the Celtic way.
Tonight will be next step on our journey under Ange and our support is 100% behind our leader.
Martin Donaldson is a Glasgow East End Bhoy, He made my first trip to Celtic Park in 1983 for a 0-0 draw with Brechin City & thankfully that never put him off going back. He now sits perched high in section 409 of the North Stand with his 2 kids making memories along the Celtic Way.
He loves picking out those matches from yester-year to find out much more about the legendary names & faces that have graced the Celtic Jersey over the years. He is a keen fundraiser for The Celtic Foundation & The British Heart Foundation as they both strive to make a difference and to change peoples lives all over the world.