Celtic impress as City’s winning streak ends

Before this game had even kicked off, the odds of success were stacked against the Scottish Champions. The stories weren’t so much will the English Premier League side win – more of by how many?

As it was, Celtic took the lead on three occasions. Manchester City equalised each time as well.

I wouldn’t say  game wasn’t thrown away though. City dominanted the stats but Celtic weren’t too wasteful or do much wrong in this match.

In fact the truth is Celtic were magnificent. Not one player shirked their duties or hid.

If even a shred of this positivity had been seen in Barcelona I’m fairly certain the goal tally would have been less. When you think you’re outgunned before kick off you might as well have a go anyway.

Celtic had nothing to lose by going at Manchester City. They went at them from the first whistle and at full speed.

I’m not going to single out one player because this was a solid team effort.  The Bhoys got a very, very good result against a side who are valued at about £400M more than them.

And that’s the beauty of it. Less expensive players working as a unit.

Before this match City had won every competitive match of the season. They’d scored 30 goals in 10 games conceding only 6 in return.

Not only do they have an impressive goal difference. They’ve never lost more than 1 goal to an opponent…..that is until they came to Celtic Park.

Brendan Rodgers must be a proud man right now. He has injected belief into this team and the supporters.

There’s nothing quite like going up against and English club bursting with multimillion pound signings and getting a result. The first point and first goals in Group C for the Hoops.

I said before the match that even if we got beat, I would be happy so long as Celtic played well. They did just that and more.

On Saturday there is the more sedate atmosphere of Dens Park as Celtic face Dundee in the Scottish Premiership. After such an intense match as the Manchester City game, I’m sure Brendan Rodgers will look to freshen things up.

Many of the players were dead on their feet on Wednesday night. They never gave up though.

Things just keep on improving for Brendan Rodgers. It’s a good time to be a Celtic supporter.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Focus on the positives

Tonight Celtic face Manchester City in the Champions League at Celtic Park. After a 7-0 mauling away to Barcelona, Brendan Rodgers will be aiming to limit any damage this unbeaten City side can inflict under Pep Guardiola’s management. 

Let’s face it, this is a tough group for Celtic. They have a few things going their favour tonight though.

Leigh Griffiths

The Scottish international has returned from injury after missing four matches including the match in Barcelona. Despite Celtic not suffering too much in front of goal though, the return of Griffiths is a positive selection headache for Brendan Rodgers. If Dembele isn’t on his game it is good to know that Griffiths is available.

No Kevin de Bruyne

Manchester City may be laden with Premier League superstars such as Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling amongst plenty others, but they will be without one key player at Celtic Park. Kevin de Bruyne (along with Vincent Kompany) is in Barcelona being medically assessed by Pep Guardiola’s favoured doctor. This doesn’t mean City will struggle because they have so many good players but de Bruyne has been so influential for the Premier League table toppers and Celtic must take confidence from that.

The Paradise atmosphere

You don’t have to be Celtic supporter to know about European nights at Paradise. Just ask anyone who has visited Celtic Park as a player, pundit or away supporter on a Champions League evening. You don’t always get the result you want, especially when a good team comes to visit. What you can be sure of is that the Celtic players will have the vocal backing of the entire Celtic supporter and they will all sing their lungs out until they can sing no more. There’s no other atmosphere quite like it.

Craig Gordon

Brendan Rodgers has already stated that Gordon will play in goal against City. He dropped the former Hearts and Sunderland keeper for Dorus de Vries in the game against Aberdeen several weeks ago. Since then, Gordon has made one appearance against Alloa Athletic, where he was lucky not to see red, then at the weekend when he replaced de Vries at half time against Kilmarnock. Although Gordon has been collating faults following a highly commendable first season, he is still number one for me. De Vries has shown me nothing to suggest Gordon is finished. The fact that Rodgers has chosen him ahead of de Vries for the game against City tells you all you need to know. Overall it remains a position of weakness for Celtic, but right now Gordon is our best man.

Celtic’s goal threat

Whist Celtic have been seen to haemorrhage goals in all but three competitive matches this season, going forward and scoring goals has been very productive. In all competitions the stats look something like this:

P 15     W 10     D 2     L 3     F 41     A 22     GD +19

Take away the Barcelona anomaly and it looks even better! Celtic should be aiming to utilise their firepower on Manchester City particularly with home advantage. City might have the marquee players, but if any of our free scoring players such as Scott Sinclair, James Forrest, Moussa Dembele or Leigh Griffiths take the initiative there is every chance Celtic can get their first goal(s) and first point(s) in Group C tonight.

Brendan Rodgers

The Northern Irishman has already shaken things up at Celtic. Of the few additions he has made, Scott Sinclair, Moussa Dembele and Kolo Toure have made a huge difference to this team. However, you only have to look at Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogic and James Forrest to see the influence Rodgers has had on them. They look fresher than ever before and with many players still on the fringe of the team and still to get back up to full fitness, it’s safe to say I have faith in Brendan’s ability particularly with his experience in the English Premier League.

Celtic may not qualify from Group C, but I would not criticise the effort that has gone in so far from everyone. This is season one under Rodgers and the club have fallen behind in development these past two or three seasons.

Now we are seeing Celtic getting back to where they should be after a lull in progression. This experience is invaluable for Rodgers and his players and the Champions League is just hotting up so let’s keep the faith.

On nights like these anything can happen. Believe.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Do It Again!

The Clumpany

do-it-again

Good Evening. [Voting in the Football Blogging Awards is now closed!]

Graeme Souness: Rangers must find Mark Warburton more money – so the Ibrox club can challenge Celtic

When The Clumpany read the above piece by the Herald’s Matthew Lindsay – which contained an unhealthy slice of liquidation-denial – I thought of the Beach Boys’ hit ‘Do It Again’. In that typically-catchy song, an encounter with an old friend leads to reminiscing about having fun in the old days, and to a suggestion that they should be revisited.

The song starts like this:

“It’s automatic when I talk with old friends
The conversation turns to Gers we knew
When their debts were large and wrong and to ‘cheat’ was the place to go”

Well I think it starts something like that… Perhaps surfing also gets a mention somewhere along the line…

The Beach Boys – ‘Do It Again’

When asked about Sevco’s current situation – which is one of languishing…

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Killie dispatched, now City come to visit

Celtic were in mesmerising form on Saturday. The 6-1 thrashing of Kilmarnock was a welcome boost going into Wednesday’s Champions League tie.

In the aftermath of the Massacre of Matchday 1, Celtic managed a 2-2 draw at Inverness in the Scottish Premiership followed by a 2-0 win at home to Alloa in the League Cup. In truth Celtic should have won the game against Caley Thistle with several chances missed whilst the Alloa match would have been a high scoring win on any other occasion.

So beating Kilmarnock by such a large margin, Celtic have their shooting boots on again. Just in time for the arrival of Manchester City this week.

I only saw the highlights of the weekend’s game but Celtic looked comfortable and at ease. This was a good warm up with Wednesday’s game in mind.

Leigh Griffiths returned and scored after replacing Moussa Dembele who had helped himself to a brace before making way for the Scotsman. A fine effort by James Forrest, a trundled goal by Tom Rogic and a Scott Sinclair penalty all added to make this a healthy scoreline.

Sinclair kept his scoring record alive and on course for equaling and possibly beating Jimmy McGrory’s record. Dembele’s tally continues to grow as does Griffiths’ but save some praise for James Forrest who is looking like a new player these days.

He’s clearly enjoying his football under Brendan Rodgers at Celtic. In fact, the same can be said for most of the players at Celtic right now.

I always knew this team – made up largely by the previous managers – was capable of so much more. The few new additions have helped compliment the many who have been at the club for a while.

For Rodgers this is good news but this is far from the finished article. There us plenty of room for improvement.

What we’re seeing now though is breathtaking at times. We’ve not seen this kind of ruthlessness from a Celtic side for so long.

What still needs attention is goalkeeping and defending. We must be just as mean at the back as we are clinical in attack.

In time that will come I’m sure. With the added expectation and pressure of the Champions League there is little time to get that ingrained into the mentality of the team.

When Pep Guardiola brings his unbeaten team of all-stars to Celtic Park on Wednesday we could be brought down a peg or two once more. City are a high-flying team right now with one, if not the most, respected managers in world football at the helm.

The team sheet is laden with superstars thanks to being bankrolled by the very generous TV rights kitty in England and of course a very wealthy owner. By comparison, Celtic operate in a less lavish climate despite being the best team in Scotland by far and with solid business model in place.

When Celtic went to Barcelona nobody expected a result. We didn’t expect a hiding either but then we were up against the best three-pronged attack in world football.

City offer something different though. They aren’t world beaters but they are superb.

Celtic have a chance though because they have home advantage. It can count, but Celtic will have to dig deeper to stave off such a potent force.

Brendan Rodgers has instilled confidence into the Celtic team but he must sort out the goalkeeping position and organise his defenders. Dorus De Vries was subbed at the weekend, claiming he had a chest injury.

In stepped Craig Gordon for the second half. From what I’ve seen of De Vries, he has very little more to offer than Gordon does.

I’d rather Rodgers went with Gordon on Wednesday. It has to be said though that this is a position that must be dealt with swiftly.

Gordon is a decent keeper, but his form has slid since his debut season and I was already of the opinion Celtic might need to bring in someone new. De Vries was drafted in to challenge the Scotland international but I’m not impressed.

I’m not bothered by the fact he is three years older than Gordon. What I am concerned about is that we’ve brought someone in who is supposed to be challenging for the number one jersey and has so far failed to impress.

Whoever plays in goals on Wednesday night they need only do one thing – their job. In the short-term we will need to make do with the current set of goalkeeping options but looking ahead, something will need to change.

Beating Manchester City remains a tall order. They have a great squad, manager and are in top form.

Celtic must use home advantage, keep things tight at the back and have the fans in top voice. This isn’t an impossible task but it is a difficult one.

I would expect Celtic to concede as they have in all but three games this season. Scoring goals hasn’t been too much of a problem though Celtic have yet to get one in this group.

I am confident we will score against City. The question is, how many will they score against us?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Over eighty minutes of frustration broken by two sublime goals

Celtic probably thought they’d walk the League Cup tie at home to Alloa Athletic. Even with the game stats so much in favour of the home side, the visitors were great and can be proud of their efforts.

Over 70% percentage of possession and over 30 shots at goal with those on target in double figures but Alloa stood firm. Celtic had their best players on the park from the start with the exception of Scott Sinclair and the injured Leigh Griffiths. 

On another night Celtic would have thrashed Alloa with this type of performance. And that’s just it, Celtic were so good but couldn’t find the net.

As it was, man of the match James Forrest broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute with a superb run and strike. Neil Parry had a brilliant night in goal for Alloa, but Forrest got what he deserved after a tireless performance.

This was Forrest of old, if that’s even possible. To wrap things up, Moussa Dembele finished a great move in the box to make it 2-0.

It was a rare clean sheet for Brendan Rodgers’ side. Only his third in fourteen competitive matches since taking over. 

Celtic weren’t really under any threat except for the few chances Alloa had. Craig Gordon, getting a chance back between the sticks, almost saw red.

Last man, perhaps not. The challenge he made on Greig Spence though was dangerous though. 

He was lucky to stay on the park. This kind of recklessness won’t do him any favours in the battle to be first choice keeper.

It’s an area of concern for Celtic. With a team of good individual defenders that have yet to gel, you’d like to think there’s a goalkeeper you can rely on but there isn’t. 

Gordon had a good first season at Celtic but he’s been on the slide ever since. Dorus de Vries doesn’t inspire me and Logan Bailly may never even get the nod for Celtic. 

This isn’t a crisis but it is a concern. With Champions League football at the core of our season, I’m troubled by our goalie problem and our frailty in defence. 

If there’s a chance for Celtic to stop losing goals it lies with our defenders. On the attack I am much more confident with what I’ve seen. 

We could be more clinical as we saw tonight against Alloa, but we create opportunities and look positive in attack. That will only get better as this team evolves.

This evening the man of the match was James Forrest and deservedly so. He ran for the entire match creating and shooting so it was fitting that he broke the stubborn style play of Alloa who had frustrated Celtic all night. 

Next up is Kilmarnock at home in the Scottish Premiership this Saturday at a more normal time of 3pm. Brendan Rodgers will try to keep the team focussed on winning that match without being distracted by the big game a week tonight at home to Manchester City. 

Hail! Hail! 

Stevie Mac 

Staying the course

Celtic bounced back from midweek Champions League disappointment with an….er….2-2 draw in Inverness on Sunday afternoon. Okay, so not exactly what we were all hoping for, but dropping points against Caley Thistle on their own patch is not uncommon for the Hoops.

Yes, I thought Celtic might turn Thistle over, but they didn’t. I never saw the game (some of us have to work some weekends you know!) though from what I’ve heard, read and viewed there were plenty of chances to go several goals ahead.

I take nothing away from Caley Thistle, they’re trying to pull their season together after a poor start. Celtic have for the first time in the Premiership seen just how their defensive frailties can cost themby dropping points.

There are plenty of positives about Celtic right now though. Attacking play appears to be one of them.

Brendan Rodgers weakest area is conceding goals. Whether that comes from the defensive set up or the goalkeeping position it must be rectified pronto.

I don’t think we’ve got a top drawer keeper right now. Just able, experienced keepers.

Dorus de Vries has replaced Craig Gordon and if I’m being honest, I’m not seeing any improvement with this move so far. Among our thirty something trio of keepers (including the injured Logan Bailly) we don’t seem to have the quality of a Fraser Forster or an Artur Boruc.

We don’t even know if young Leonardo Fasan can do a job. Knowing Celtic’s history we’ll probably punt the Italian and he’ll end up having a highly successful career in England.

It’s not all goalkeeping of course. The defence must do their job as well.

We have healthy individuals in defence, but the organisation must be better and more decisive. Kolo Toure, Erik Sviatchenko, Mikael Lustig and Jozo Simunovic are all more than capable of fulfilling the centre back role so the correct partnership needs to be established so that others can follow.

Players like Eoghan O’Connell can’t be expected to step in when guys much older than him can’t show him how it’s done. Brendan must establish a solid line of defence especially with so many tough European matches coming up.

Sunday was a blip but Celtic remain unbeaten. Tonight they face Alloa Athletic in the League Cup at Celtic Park.

A clean sheet should be targeted here and decent amount of goals for the Hoops as well. The course hasn’t changed – full speed ahead.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Bouncing back in Inverness

A trip to the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium for Celtic usually means a tough game lies ahead after a long trip north. With the champions sitting unbeaten at the top of the league and their opponents, Inverness, currently propping up the rest of the Scottish Premiership right now, both teams couldn’t be further apart in terms of league position.

Thistle have literally always been a thorn in Celtic’s side, but last season they slipped out of the top six prior to the split even though their final points tally would have seen them finish 5th. The season before that, they finished a very respectable third in the league behind Aberdeen.

This season hasn’t been a great start but they drew their last match away to Aberdeen which was a decent result. The game before that, they beat St Johnstone who currently sit in third place.

So after a run of four straight defeats, including a loss to Alloa in the League Cup, they are beginning to pull together just in time for the visit of Celtic. Brendan Rodgers must bounce back from defeat today but he has said that he will not make huge changes to the team.

And why would he? Going out and getting a win today would be the perfect way to exorcise the mauling of the team that played on Tuesday night wouldn’t it?

Perhaps, but we have a large squad so we might as well use it. Even if there aren’t too many changes, our formation should be less defensive.

Whilst I respect the difference between Celtic and Inverness, I think the Hoops will be too strong for Thistle today. Brendan Rodgers will be looking to maintain a winning start in the Scottish Premiership.

A victory would see Celtic move on to 15 points and 5 points ahead of nearest side Hearts with a game at hand. Creating a gap now would give Brendan Rodgers a safety buffer and with five more tough Champions League fixtures ahead, that could well come into use as the task of avoiding fourth place in Group C becomes more demanding.

I’m sure Richie Foran won’t allow his side to be pushed over easily today, but Celtic have the mentality and the squad to inflict some damage today. Based on that, I’m going to stick my neck out and go for a 3-1 win for the Hoops this afternoon with Stuart Armstrong netting at least one goal.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac