From Hamilton to Rennes: Celtic embark upon Europa journey against familiar opponents

Celtic 0-0 Stade Rennais in July’s freindly in Glasgow

After a dull international break I’d been looking forward to Celtic playing Hamilton Accies last weekend. The match wasn’t glamorous yet the scoreline translated as a Celtic victory.

The important thing was the win. Maintaining a 100% record in all domestic games for the time being.

Having managed that after an international break is to be commended as their was a concern momentum may be lost. Hamilton were stubborn and Celtic didn’t get the second goal that would have eased everyone’s minds and made the result look a little more conclusive.

Yet there was very little wrong with what Celtic did. It wasn’t glossy or polished, but it kept Celtic’s noses in front as they prepared for a European week.

We were introduced to Mohamed Elyounoussi who provided the assist for James Forrest’s goal. The only goal of the game which came in the fourth minute.

The Southampton winger was substituted in the 67th minute for Tom Rogic. Rogic has been out for a while, but his return signifies the depth and quality we possess given that Ryan Christie has practically stolen the number 10 role in his absence.

Odsonne Edouard was also involved in the first goal, providing a nice lay-off for Elyounoussi. The Frenchman was replaced by Vakoun Bayo in the 77th minute with Celtic still in the hunt for the second goal.

With four minutes of the six added on remaining, Jonny Hayes came on for Christie. The aim was most likely to unlock the Hamilton back line as he did at Ibrox the other week.

There was some concern for Christopher Jullien when he got a head knock. He eventually played on, but in the aftermath it transpired he’d blacked out which means he probably should have been taken off.

It wasn’t the best game of football I’ve seen against Hamilton, but the result was important. Straight wins from your opening five league games hasn’t been done since 2010.

With another three points in the bag, Celtic embark upon their Europa League Group Stage campaign this evening. Stade Rennais are a familiar face to Neil Lennon having just played them in a summer friendly.

That tame friendly ended as 0-0, but Lennon’s first encounter with the French club was back in 2011 in the Europa League. After FC Sion were thrown out of the competition, Celtic took their place alongside Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Stade Rennais in the group stages.

Results against the French side were good. A 1-1 draw in Rennes followed by a 3-1 win at Celtic Park meant that Neil Lennon’s side had bested the the French club over all but three draws and one defeated elsewhere meant settling for third place in Group I.

Fast forward eight years and the two clubs find themselves up against one another once again. There are no survivors in the Stade Rennais side from that era but Celtic have James Forrest and Fraser Forster who played in both games.

Club captain Scott Brown was absent for the entire group phase that season. So although he didn’t take part, he was very much part of the squad back then.

Stade Rennais currently sit in second place in Ligue 1 behind PSG who they beat 2-1 last month along with Montpelier and Strasbourg. However, in their last two league matches they lost at home to Nice and drew away to Brest.

Celtic are going strong with five out of five wins in the league, a win in the League Cup and just the one defeat in all European qualifiers. Stade Rennais of course, didn’t have to undertake any qualifiers to make the group stage.

Last season they finished in 10th place with Julien Stephan taking the reins in December last year. He took the team to the French Cup Final and won on penalties against PSG.

That earned them automatic entry into the Europa League group stage. Meantime, Celtic had to slog it out in eight qualifiers, despite having won a domestic treble for the third season in a row.

Whilst the team from Rennes have overcome PSG twice in their last two meetings, Celtic have been playing well. And things are still developing under Neil Lennon.

I think tonight’s match is a hard one to call. Celtic will not be phased by those results their opponents got against PSG – they will be ready.

Neil Lennon has put in a lot of hard work over the summer against European sides, recruiting a mixture of youth and experience, as well as changing the way Celtic play. I don’t think a result is out of the question for Celtic this evening and as Lennon himself has already, “the group is open and every team will be looking to have a say.”

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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