The Celtic Formula

Tomorrow night Celtic will undertake their penultimate Champions League group phase match in Estádio da Luz, Lisbon. Their opponents, Benfica will be looking to acquire all three points in the hope of leapfrogging their opponents in Group G on points on between the two clubs.

Benfica are odds on to win this match but I’m not much of a betting man. This match is a blank canvas though statistical history between the two clubs left things on a level pegging after six matches.

The draw at Celtic Park in September, a match which seemed to come too early for the Hoops, was the seventh competitive fixture. That result will surely give Benfica the motivation they want for tomorrow night.

It’s fair to say that Benfica did not look awe inspiring that night in Glasgow, but it was more of a wasted chance for Celtic. Winning your home games has almost become a must in the Champions League, particularly for Celtic.

Victory and points on the road in the Champions League eluded Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan. It is the player who they mentored that obtained both.

Celtic came close away from home in the past but it had always been just that. When describing Celtic’s performances, Martin O’Neill coined the phrase ‘punching above their weight.

He said that with one of the most enviable forward lines in Europe. To have such menace in your ranks would leave you feeling confident about facing any opponent.

Celtic have cut their cloth accordingly and £6m players are a thing of the past. These days the value is found in scouting for the Hoops, not in large transfer fees.

Those days were brief and entertaining, even emotional though ultimate unsustainable. The formula that has been written by Lennon and the club has already produced entertainment and emotion but they will not be brief.

On Tuesday night Celtic may not be odds on for victory but I wouldn’t be against a draw. As CQN wrote recently, treat Benfica as though they were Barca.

That might not be a bad way to approach the game and even if Celtic do so, it’s likely there will be more possession up for grabs than in the last two group matches. If there is Lennon will be looking to exploit where he can.

Neil knows Celtic had a good chance to win against Benfica in the first match. It is also very likely that whilst he will be wary of being away from home, he will be looking closely at his attacking options.

He has moulded a team of believers at the highest level of football and so far Lennon has got the formula right. Are we up for another spectacle tomorrow night?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie, Celts from the South

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