Celtic’s Europa League campaign is dead and buried, but they still have to face Milan away and Lille at home. Despite these dead rubber matches, the focus is solely on the domestic campaign.
Neil Lennon must now go on a winning run beginning today at home to Ross County in the League Cup. Although every fan would forfeit every other competition to secure 10IAR now, we must be looking to defend the League Cup crown we’ve held for four straight years.
A win today would be a much needed boost to morale given that Celtic haven’t won a match since the 4-1 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park. That was three weeks ago, but given the sparsity in wins, it feels like three months ago.
Much of the statistical focus has been on the fact Celtic have won just two out of the last nine games. The starting point of that was of course the derby defeat at Celtic Park.
Since then we’ve been hurting badly and suffered several blows. Conversely, Celtic had a near perfect run of results up until then.
They won four games but drew with Kilmarnock then lost to Ferencvaros in August and. In September they won every game and whilst October continued with two wins they went on to lose two and draw the last two of the month.
November has been fairly similar, but a win today would make a slight improvement on the previous month. I won’t make excuses, but I do think minus our Europa League matches our domestic form hasn’t been that bad.
We’ve had a lot of away games to deal with and December is much kinder on this front. There are eight games crammed into the month, but five of them are at home, with two away and one on neutral ground.
We’re all wondering what has affected us this season. The answers will come to light in time, but all the club can do is is stick together and give them our backing.
This is a crucial period in the season. We have to get some consistency, cut out mistakes and be more ruthless in front of goal but we can only do that ourselves.
I’m confident we can bounce back starting with a win today. There may be a number of factors affecting Celtic this season, but this team are capable of so much more.
I found it particularly encouraging that Odsonne Edouard looked sharp the other night. He hasn’t looked that good for months.
Whilst the overall result was tough to take, I don’t think Eddy would have scored that goal in previous recent games. He’s not been at the races for some time, but there was evidence of his true calibre once again Prague.
I do think that we’ve showed some character to come back into games albeit sporadic. That shows there is something ticking away inside this team, but Celtic still have work to do and a couple of good domestic results wouldn’t go amiss.
The Milan game on Thursday is a distraction, but Neil Lennon has already stated he’ll use the two remaining Europa League games to give fringe players a chance. That will hopefully mean those results, however they turn out, will have a minimum effect on the recovery of this domestic campaign.
We need to start cutting out the mistakes at the back. Whoever is in goal today, and the remainder of the season, needs to be more commanding.
Vasilis Barkas hasn’t played since the 3-1 defeat by Milan at Celtic Park in late October. Following that he was said to have an injury and dropped from the first team.
Whether he was injured or not, dropping him was the right thing to do because it has shown that Scott Bain is not the answer either. Barkas hasn’t performed as you’d expect your chosen number one to, but maybe today is the time for him to come back in and demonstrate why the club shelled out close to £5M on him.
It’s probably an unfair comparison to make, but Fraser Forster had more presence in his box. Someone has to be in charge at the back and last season, Forster saved our blushes on more than one occasion.
Perhaps that is why we are at sixes and sevens at the back right now or at least why it is more apparent? We’ve thrown every option at our defensive problem including goalkeepers, formations and personnel combinations.
Clean sheets have been hard to come by this season. We’ve managed 9 out of a possible 22, 5 of which have been in our 13 Scottish Premiership matches.
There’s no doubt our defensive frailties have hindered us this term, but equally we’ve lost our edge in front of goal. Injuries, form and other absences have had an impact on who to play up front and we must be more clinical.
Mohamed Elyounoussi is our most prolific scorer in all competitions with 10 goals and even his form has been inconsistent. Then it’s Odsonne Edouard on 8 and Albian Ajeti on 5 who have both been in and out of the team.
The remainder of our goals have been spread around the team which is good, but there has to be a focal point in attack. There’s no doubt Eddy is our number one striker, but he must get back to number one form.
For all of our sakes, including Neil Lennon’s, today has to be the beginning of the turning of the tide. A win, a clean sheet and a good dose of goals would be the perfect tonic for everyone.