Is the season beginning to swing?

Hearts may still sit atop the Scottish Premiership, but the landscape around them is ever-changing. The ideal start can do you a huge amount of good, but your best challenger having the worst possible start can help you even further.

What then if that competitor turns things around? Starts getting their house in order?

Well, it’s too soon to tell. If the late winner away to St Johnstone in the League Cup and resilient home victory over Aberdeen in the league are anything to go by then Celtic might just have their mojo back.

By no means is Brendan Rodgers and his squad out of the woods though. The challenge remains closing the early points gap created by Craig Levein’s side.

Cup competitions are also on that list of tasks with Hearts their next opponent in the League Cup. And Celtic will want to remain in all competitions for as long as possible.

Perhaps the one area that has been hit hardest is Europe. The Champions League has provided stern tests and financial reward for the last two seasons, but that’s out of the picture for now.

The Europa League is on the menu until Christmas and there is work to be done. Celtic travel to Salzburg for matchday two in Group B.

Salzburg top the group with Celtic on 3 points having both won their opening matches. Celtic made heavy weather of their tie with Rosenborg whilst Salzburg battled it out with Leipzig.

The Austrian Red Bull team emerged as victors over their German Red Bull counterparts. Much has been made of the relationship between these two clubs and the conflict of interests.

Conflict of interests aside, Celtic have one task when taking on these teams. To get a result.

With both Red Bull clubs having progressed well in the Europa League last season the task is daunting. But the improvement on the field during the last 135 minutes of play by Celtic might just be timely.

Whist we can say that the team has lost some individuals from last season who in the past have been important to us, we have to move forward with what we have now. Forget January, it may be too late to do anything in that transfer window unless the current squad get their act together.

If we can continue the work rate that we saw during the second half against St Johnstone and the entire match against Aberdeen then we can build upon that. We still have injuries, we still have some players off the boil, but we also have some players yet to make their mark.

It will be a tall order to get any kind of result against Salzburg with or without our best form. Four years ago, Celtic drew 2-2 in Austria with Celtic’s goals provided by Mubarak Wakaso and Scott Brown.

There are a few survivors on from the squads that evening. Craig Gordon, Emilio Izaguirre, Callum McGregor, Nir Bitton and of course Broony were all in the squad that night.

Salzburg’s captain, Andreas Ulmer is still present along with Andre Ramalho Silva, Christoph Leitgeb and Alexander Walke who were also in their squad that evening. Only Bitton and Walke didn’t play that night.

Both teams of course are under new management, have each dropped out of the Champions League qualifying and now hoping to make progress in the Europa League. Salzburg have home advantage and Europa League semi-final place from last season to work off whilst Celtic finished third in their Champions League group and only went as far as the last 32 in the Europa League.

It’s a huge contrast but Celtic must try to make some impact. The income may not be as inviting as the Champions League but progression is equally, if not more important in this competition.

Has the season finally swung? We might just find out on Thursday night.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac


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