…is the biggest game of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic career. So far anyway.
The negative scoreline that Celtic returned from Gibraltar with wasn’t just a bad result. This was an embarrassment that now requires complete exorcism.
Some said it was like England’s result against Iceland. It wasn’t, it was worse.
Iceland went through two qualifying groups before facing the English and were there on merit. Lincoln Red Imps are a semi-professional side formed the same year I was born.
Sure, they’ve won the last 14 league titles but Gibraltar only became a member of UEFA in 2014. Does this mean Celtic have met their match?
No it bloody well doesn’t. Yes they beat a better side (on paper) in the previous round, but Celtic should be able to dispose of the Gibraltarians at Celtic Park tonight with a strong scoreline.
That is what Celtic fans will be looking for Brendan Rodgers to ensure happens. We can accept that 1-0 away defeat so long as we are convinced by what is on show tonight and not just edging past the Imps.
We know that this Celtic team is still undergoing surgery. The fat is being sucked out of the torso in order to expose the muscle this squad does have so we can invest in the muscle that we do not currently possess.
It will be a process that requires our patience. Something we are not all blessed with as Celtic supporters.
There is pressure to reach the group stage of the Champions League but there is also the expectation to create a functioning football team at the same time. Both of these are working against each other because on the one hand we don’t have the luxury of time with qualifying for Europe’s premier club competition starting so early in the summer, but time is needed to develop a good team.
Could this have been prevented? To some degree yes, but we can’t dwell on that.
Now what we need is to start setting out our stall. Playing the players that are working and in the right position.
Lincoln Red Imps aren’t playing games. They fancy this with their opponents (us) not firing on all cylinders just yet.
This is no time for complacency. Rodgers needs goals, a clean sheet and a good performance.
We demand it. We need it.