In terms of qualifying for the Champions League group phase, it’s half time for Celtic. Tonight they take on Qarabağ in Azerbaijan in the second leg of the third qualifying round.
This will be Celtic’s first ever visit to the country and conditions are said to be hot. The playing surface has been under scrutiny but both teams will have to play under the same conditions.
Playing surfaces have been a topic for Celtic in the past, particulary in European competition. In the last round of qualifying they played on a 4G surface in Iceland which was both fast and slow in places.
This evening will present another challenge but in football you can’t always guarantee a bowling green surface. Playing on red ash for most of my youth, I can’t say I have any sympathy!
The players will have a practice on the park and deal with it as expected. Deila has already iterated that there will be no excuses based on the playing surface.
With only a 1-0 lead from the first leg, Celtic should be seeking an away goal. Though not at the expense of leaving themselves open to the opposition.
Qarabağ will obviously need to score but whether they stick to the style of play seen last week or try something different we can only guess. I figure they will keep it tight but try and hit on the break a little more than they did at Celtic Park.
For that reason alone Celtic must stay organised and disciplined from back to front. No defensive mishaps, no misplaced passes.
Good positioning, patience on the ball and real decisiveness when on the move will be more effective when dealing with Qarabağ. They make use of the ball and their space well so we have to counter that by being just as organised.
I’ve got no idea how Ronny will set up for this but I’m champing at the bit for 5.30pm already.