A dozen reasons to remain focussed.

I’ve been a little preoccupied in recent weeks with a variety of personal matters so I’m afraid my blog has taken a bit of a hit (did you even notice?). Thankfully, I’m back just in time to write something for some upcoming, high profile fixtures (applause). 
On Wednesday Celtic return to Parc des Princes to face PSG. It’s been more than twenty years since they were beaten by a solitary Youri Djorkaeff goal in Paris.

I’d like to think that the Bhoys could get a similar result tomorrow night in the Champions League to save our blushes, but I fear that is an unlikely scenario. PSG might be through to the knockout phase already, but they’ll want to finish top by beating Celtic and not having to rely on the final group phase match against a resurgent Bayern Munich.

Celtic shouldn’t be too concerned by this match. A match they cannot win. 

To bust their nuts in Paris, less than a week before a domestic cup final would not be smart. What they want to do is turn up on Wednesday night, give a good account of themselves and get home physically unscathed.

Having already been beaten 0-5 at Celtic Park in the opening game of the group phase, we already know PSG are a team in ascension. They can be devastating home and away and I’d rather we didn’t stand in their way.

Brendan Rodgers will want to see less of a drubbing like the rest of us of course, but I think there has to be some consideration about the games that lie ahead. The big Champions League game for Celtic comes two weeks later in Glasgow against Anderlecht.

That IS an important fixture. It can earn us a place in the last 32 of the Europa League ensuring European football after Christmas.

Between the penultimate and final Champions League games for Celtic, are three matches against Motherwell. The first of these will be the League Cup Final on Sunday at Hampden.

So it’s another busy period for Celtic which started with Saturday’s 0-1 win at Ross County and will see the Hoops play 12 games in 6 weeks. That’s one midweek game as well as a weekend game right up until the end of the year.

If any club in Scotland can handle that then it is Celtic. There are injuries, but there is also a good squad to be utilised. 

With so many important fixtures before the winter break the Bhoys need to knuckle down and get the results. A Europa League spot, a domestic trophy and a continuing unbeaten run are on the pre-2018 agenda.

No pressure then. We’ve already seen this team of invincibles under Brendan Rodgers break a club, Scottish and British record, but there is much more on the horizon as well.

We’re only in season two under Brendan Rodgers and this team haven’t even peaked. The challenges are plentiful and Celtic show no sign of letting up.

A superb Leigh Griffiths free kick won the weekend’s torrid match at Ross County. It wasn’t Celtic’s best display but they ground out a result again.

Ross County proved to be a physical and stubborn opponent. They perhaps got away with a little too much in my opinion but I won’t let that deflect from what was a good display by the Staggies.

Celtic may have been keeping something in the locker for PSG. I don’t expect anything from this game though.

Hail! Hail!

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Positive signs despite defeat

It’s not often I watch Celtic lose at Paradise and think to myself “that was a great performance.” Well, last night was one of those rare occasions.

Playing against European giants has been a humbling experience of late. Barcelona last season and PSG this season as examples.

The body language cast by Celtic players  has been of a team demonstrating too much admiration for their opponents. There is something in the psyche about certain clubs that Celtic have had a problem with recently.

Against Bayern Munich in Germany it wasn’t quite the hiding that PSG inflicted in Scotland. The Germans were purring like a well tuned Mercedes at the Allianz Arena that night but Celtic had made an improvement in that game despite the 3-0 loss.

In second half of the double header at Celtic Park they now had to show they was progress and lessons learned. To believe in themselves and to take the fight to the opposition no matter how big a task it was.

And they did. Celtic were strong and on the front foot creating chances.

The coldness that rattled them in previous games was absent. Then Bayern capitalised on a slack piece of play between Boyata and Gordon which was duly dispatched with calmness by Kinglsey Comman.

Celtic were floored by the goal. Having played with such spirit and confidence for the opening 20 minutes, it was all undone in a couple of seconds.

It took them a good 10 minutes to get regain their composure. That allowed them to finish the first half with some positivity.

Eventually Celtic would get their reward. McGregor, an unsung hero for so long pounced onto Forrest’s pass and netted an equaliser.

Brilliant. Celtic had earned it.

Only a few minutes laters though Bayern were back in front. Bitton was outjumped by Martinez who nodded home an unstoppable winner.

Both players were bloodied in the process. Celtic didn’t give up though and rallied right up until the 6th minute of injury time.

My overall verdict of this match is similar to yours. We had to turn in a bettee performance against a far greater team and we did.

How Celtic played last night was close to our best. Mop up the mistakes and have your players on top form and you’ll make progress.

Aside from the first goal and Sinclair’s strangely absent performance Celtic were brilliant to watch. Tierney and Lustig were immense.

Bitton overshadowed Boyata. Brown was tireless, Armstrong was imposing himself and McGregor was worthy of his starting slot.

Dembele’s presence made validated his selection. Last night though the plaudits go to another.

James Forrest was outstanding all match. As frustrating as he can be at times, he reminded us of what he is capable of when he’s in the right frame of mind.

His performances this season have been better than Paddy Roberts’. Even if the injured winger had been available I would have gone with James.

He should watch this match over and over because he was running the show. Well done wee man, you were superb.

I’ll forfeit the PSG match now and hopefully no slip ups against Anderlecht next month. Europa League is our oyster for 2018.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac