Great to be here, but tonight we need something from the game 

This evening Celtic have the opportunity to get a point or points on the Champions League group stage. Anderlecht host Brendan Rodgers’ team amid a period of minor turmoil for the Belgian champions.

They sacked their manager only weeks ago and sit in 7th place in the Belgian First Division A. That could galvanise Anderlecht but Celtic only need to focus on their own game.

Having come off the back of three straight wins over Ross County, Dundee and Rangers there is positivity following on from the disappointment of the PSG game. Fitness is returning to the ranks as well and just in time.

That means better options and greater stability. Do I think Celtic can get something from tonight’s match?

Absolutely. It’s all about the right setup and attitude.

Nobody is suggesting that Anderlecht are or will be a pushover. They are Celtic’s only realistic chance at Europe after Christmas.

Go out and take them down Bhoys. We’re right behind you.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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No contest

I don’t know where to begin. Okay, congratulations Bhoys, job done.

The gulf may be obvious, but Celtic made heavy weather of today’s 0-2 victory at Ibrox. It was far from a polished performance or even a clinical one.

Had that been the case Celtic would have strolled to another high scoreline. The truth is the current incarnation of Rangers aren’t very good and Celtic didn’t put them to the sword.

I’m not being harsh to either side. Celtic are bossing Scottish football and Rangers think they are better than they actually are.

The Sky Sports coverage was nauseating to go along with it. No Tanner or McCann in the studio, but the reportage was a case of equality for the masses.

No need to talk up Celtic of course. Let’s focus on Rangers to keep things rose tinted because in truth they’re shite. 

Kris Commons was positively choking in post match analysis. He had to because he is paid to do so.

I saw for the first time in my life how blatantly orchestrated the Sky Sports match programme is now. I was numb to it before, but the change in personnel only highlighted just how inaccurate they were with their talking points.

Andy Walker was calling for things in the match that just weren’t there. You can argue the toss that this is to be expected from yet another ex-Celt, but even the BT Sport Chris Sutton Show wouldn’t stand for that pish.

You know what, I shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed. This is the kind of analysis I should be accustomed to and the result. 

I don’t like Sky or their people. It’s all bullshit.

BT Sport is far superior even if it is pushing its luck with guys like Kris Boyd and Ally McCoist. Let’s hope we don’t have to endure Sky Sports forever in these fixtures.

Should have done better today but that shows you where we are compared to them I guess. All eyes on Wednesday’s match in Belgium.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

The Celtic Machine

Celtic made their way into the semi finals of the League Cup with a 4-0 win at Dens Park on Wednesday night. For Dundee, their poor start to their season continued.

Brendan Rodgers made full use of the strong array of personnel he has at his disposal. He made six changes from last Saturday’s 4-0 win over Ross County at Celtic Park.

Out went Ralston, Simunovic, Rogic, Armstrong and Dembele. In came Tierney, Lustig, Boyata, Ntcham, Roberts and Sinclair.

When you consider that many changes doesn’t affect the team’s domestic ability, you know you have a solid squad. It was an almost seamless transition and it didn’t impact on Celtic’s ability in Tayside.

Neil McCann deployed his team to quite literally set about the Celtic machine. From the minute the whistle went, his players were going in hard on Celtic’s.

Not all of the tackles were clean. Not all were deemed as free kicks either.

Unsurprisingly, the first yellow card would go to a Dundee player. However, the next went to Olivier Ntcham which got the backs up of the Celtic support and with good reason.

Dundee were taking lumps out of Celtic in a bid to disrupt play. The match official John Beaton got many of his decisions wrong (for both teams), but he should have been swifter with the roughhousing by Neil McCann’s players.

Had Beaton clamped down earlier we may have had a better flow to the game but instead he allowed things to get a little bit tasty. Celtic went about their business though and secured another unbeaten domestic game which will see them play Hibs at Hampden.

It was also good to see Dedryck Boyata back in the fold. The Belgian has been out since early in the summer following an injury in a pre-season friendly.

As you would expect Boyata still requires game time. He may get a further chance at Ibrox, but like Wednesday, he may not play the full 90 minutes.

Celtic are almost back to full strength and so far remain unbeaten in all domestic competitions. There is no doubt Rangers will be up for this game, but unless Celtic fail to turn up I can’t see anything other than a Celtic victory.

The biggest problem for Brendan Rodgers is which eleven players to put out there. He will have one eye on Wednesday’s game away in Anderlecht, but the only concerns he should have are those who aren’t at full match sharpness.

Other than Boyata who I’ve already mentioned, Dembele and Roberts are the only players who may not be up-to-speed yet. I can see Dembele getting a chance against Rangers and the same goes for Roberts, but changes will be made in preparation for the trip to Belgium.

For now though, it is all eyes on Ibrox this Saturday lunchtime. Anyone for 4-0?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

The next three games

Celtic bounced back from their disappointing Champions League opener against PSG by turning over Ross County 4-0 at Celtic Park. Whilst County are well below the class the Champions League provides, it is easy to fall foul to a team who have not had a midweek European encounter to deal with.

In the next 10 days, Celtic have three away matches. On Wednesday they are off to Dens Park, Saturday is Ibrox and the following Wednesday it is the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in Anderlecht.

The objective (isn’t it always?!) will be a victory for every game. Each opponent has their own issues right now as well.

Dundee have lost four of their opening six games in the Scottish Premiership. Neil McCann’s influence at Dens Park is about as effective as it was when he was a pundit for Sky.

If Celtic don’t wipe the floor with Dundee then we have a problem. Then it’s that time of the season again.

The Ibrox tribute act welcome Celtic to their humble home for the first encounter of the season. Now the issues on the south banks of the Clyde are somewhat complex.

Aside from suffering constant turmoil from boardroom to boot room, their league form isn’t all that bad. They currently sit third in the Scottish Premiership maintaining the position they finished last season.

In fact the current top four was last seasons top four. That could all change this season of course.

Again, Celtic should be looking to put this mob to bed. Brother Pedro is slightly insane and the team have to take orders from him.

So that wraps up the domestic scene fro the next two games. After that Celtic are off to Belgium to face old rivals Anderlecht.

Like Celtic, the Belgians lost at home to a far superior team in their Champions League opener. The scoreline was slightly more credible having (only) lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich.

At the weekend they then drew 2-2 away to KV Kortrijk. Today, they sacked their manager Rene Weiler after a disappointing start to the season in general.

After seven games, Anderlecht are mid-table on nine points. That’s nine points behind table toppers Club Brugge.

Weiler isn’t the first managerial casualty of the season of course. The European scene is awash with sackings already and it’s only September.

Many might see this as a bonus for Celtic. Anderlecht are already Celtic’s best chance at getting points in the group stage.

However, this sacking may galvanise the Belgian side. What Celtic must do is ignore the situation and stick to the plan.

Brendan Rodgers needs to improve on last seasons Champions League campaign. That means finishing third rather than fourth.

Anderlecht are his best chance of making that happen. Thankfully, there are some timely recoveries taking place at Lennoxtown.

Moussa Dembele returned to first team football on Saturday with a goal against Ross County. Dedryck Boyata will return this week and back in training is Erik Sviatchenko.

Before long, Celtic will be at full strength again. Just in time for a must win game in Belgium.

Mind you, the last time Celtic played Anderlecht in Belgium they were beaten. Not only were they defeated, but it was the Belgian side’s first victory in the group stage of the Champions League that season AND they did it with 10 men.

Now we’re talking more than ten years ago, but many Celtic fans will remember the disappointment of that one. Even though they dispatched Anderlecht at Celtic Park later in the campaign with a fine performance, that match in Belgium is one of those games that Celtic SHOULD have won.

So it just goes to show, when the odds are against you, strange things can happen. Celtic will have to be on their guard for that one.

An interesting 10 days await us.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Fresh challenges ahead

I’ve had several days now to get over Tuesday night’s defeat. I also had to watch it at midnight on catchup having not seen it live.

For some people this result was on the cards. You never give up hope, but Celtic were outclassed by PSG.

The French side got into their stride from the get go. The Glasgwegian side made them wait until the 19th minute, but inevitably the goals came.

This was a team that lived up to the personnel they can afford to buy. A forward line to die for made the home side pay.

There may be easier teams out there in the Champions League but right now Celtic are one of those teams. At times there was some spirit, but the pace and accuracy in which PSG moved the ball left Celtic for dead throughout the match.

I don’t need to mention the PSG players. So I’ll focus on Celtic.

Finally, Brendan Rodgers deployed a makeshift defence that few would have argued with. Up until this match, most have disgareed with his selection of Bitton at the back.

So why wait until now to change it and not earlier? Was he conflicted at the last minute?

Anthony Ralston put in an admirable shift at right back and deserves plaudits – I like this guy. Mikael Lustig moved into right centre back where he has played often enough in his career but rarely under Brendan.

He was joined by Jozo Simunovic and Kiernan Tierney to form a back four that is the best Celtic have to offer right now. It wasn’t enough to snuff out the most expensive forward line in the world though.

Looking back at the goals you might criticise individuals, but this is what guys like Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani feed upon. It is their craft in the game and they are at the top.

We cannot have any complaints because we aren’t on the same level. That doesn’t take time, that takes money.

Money that will never be in Scotland or even at Celtic. When you face a team of such stature there is generally only one conclusion.

Going back to Celtic’s performance, I was impressed by Scott Brown’s tenacity. He never gave up.

Olivier Ntcham got himself involved more than Stuart Armstrong, but we wouldn’t see his effectiveness until the second half. By which time Celtic were already three goals down.

Scott Sinclair was our biggest outlet. Much of the time he was let down by his touches or the timely interception of PSG.

Paddy Roberts had a good one but tired due to lack of match fitness. Leigh Griffiths was out in the cold because of the lack of link up play between midfield and attack.

Other than a poor result, we had a pitch invader and Neymar at his usual antics. I’m not sure who I hate more – the Brazilian diver who shame the game or these dickheads who shame our own club.

Celtic must move on from this though. It’s all about the Anderlecht games.

They won’t be pushovers. Nobody is a pushover for Celtic these days.

What Brendan Rodgers and his players must do though is be more effective. Take those chances and cut out the errors.

Some of the commentary talked about an ’embarrassing’ and ‘poor’ display. I think much of this was reactionary and filled with disappointment.

Yes, mistakes were made and it was hard to watch. Let’s not forget who Celtic were playing though eh?

Celtic were taught a lesson by a classy side for the second season in a row. Brendan has to take that on board and make the right approach for the next game.

I noticed some folk talking about spending more money but we have limitations. It’s only Brendan’s second season and we’ll see further improvements in the years ahead but right now it’s about making this team work.

The next three games are a good break from Tuesday’s disappointment and a time to prepare for Anderlecht. Today it is Ross County at home, Wednesday it’s Dundee away and then The Rangers next Saturday at Ibrox.

Let’s get back to the drawing board. Plenty of fresh challenges ahead.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Ready or not, here we come!

Odsonne Édouard complete a busy transfer window for Celtic. After passing a medical and signing a one year loan deal, the PSG striker became Brendan Rodgers’ 5th and final summer signing.

There can be no arguments about the quality which has been recruited given the restrictions on Celtic’s dealings in the market place. That doesn’t mean all fans are satisfied with the situation though – we’re a fickle bunch.

As supporters of this club we all have an opinion to share and I am but one of those people. Some of our viewpoints can be uneducated or misplaced whilst others are merely stating the obvious truth.

We know that the club have had a financial boost, but what they don’t have is money to spend on whoever they want. They also do not need to spend money on someone just for the sake of it as Brendan pointed out in a post transfer window interview.

It has to be right for us or we risk making similar useless moves as seen in Celtic’s very recent history. The management team has assessed and just about cleared away all of the dead wood inherited when they came in last summer.

We don’t need to collect any more. It drains the club and blocks the opportunity for youth to thrive.

Now the team is beginning to look more like Brendan’s despite the core of the squad being an accumulation of his predecessors’ players. He has reshaped them into his style of playing with many of his signature buys being a standout in his first season as manager.

To say the team has been transformed would be an understatement. Brendan and his backroom staff have taken the team to another level and it is far from over.

Throughout the summer we saw fourteen players depart on a permanent basis: Logan Bailly, Leo Fasan, Emilio Izaguirre, Saidy Janko, Kolo Touré, Efe Ambrose, Eoghan O’Connell, Kris Commons, Gary Mackay-Steven, Fiacre Kelleher, Paul McMullan, Conor McManus, Luke Donnelly and Aiden Nesbitt.

Eight players are out on loan: Scott Allan, Ryan Christie, Nadir Çiftçi, Joe Thomson, Sam Wardrop, Jamie Lindsay, Ross Doohan and PJ Crossan.

Some of those loans may spell the end of certain Celtic careers with contracts for Çiftçi, Thomson, Wardrop and Lindsay all expiring next year. With all these moves taking place, the first team has been whittled down to a squad size of 25 players.

Craig Gordon and Dorus de Vries make up our goalkeeping team. Our defence consists of Mikael Lustig, Kieran Tierney, Cristian Gamboa, Jozo Šimunović, Erik Sviatchenko and Dedryck Boyata.

The midfield is perhaps our largest selection pool ranging from defensive, central, attack and wide players. Callum McGregor, Liam Henderson, Nir Bitton, Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogić, Eboue Kouassi, Kristoffer Ajer, Scott Sinclair and James Forrest.

Up front we have Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembélé. Over the summer Brendan Rodgers has recruited Jonny Hayes, Kundai Benyu, Olivier Ntcham, Patrick Roberts and Odsonne Édouard to bolster the squad.

A new contract for Armstrong was good news and should allow him to settle in his second season under Brendan. The one year takes the pressure off everyone and allows him another season to prove he is worth a better, longer contract.

With so many players leaving it allows players in the development squad to get a chance. We’ve already seen appearances over the summer in preseason friendlies and competitive matches from players such as Anthony Ralston and Calvin Miller.

As pleasing as this is for our youthful hopefuls, the glaring concern was our inability to procure a central defender in this window. With all of our current defenders fit and on-form this wouldn’t be a concern but they aren’t and it is.

I’m not throwing the book at the club for not spending or at Brendan Rodgers for being naive – he’s explained the situation to us. The warning signs were there and we haven’t managed it so this is the squad we have until January which will receive full support from the fans.

There are six tough games coming up against Bayern Munich, PSG and Anderlecht. We also have an invincible domestic treble to defend so everyone will want a piece of Celtic this season.

We’ve already been treated to the early promise shown by Ntcham. Benyu is still young, but his energy is encouraging.

Hayes hasn’t quite hit the ground running. I’m sure over the season he will settle in though.

Édouard has come in as much needed back up to the front men so that has put many minds at rest. Perhaps the most exciting move was the return of Roberts.

Paddy is already a fans favourite. He’s young, flamboyant, talented and best mates with Mr Celtic himself, Kieran Tierney.

Even though it’s a loan deal, we already know his value to this team. The fans get excited when he plays.

So yes, whilst I’m disappointed not to see a central defender materialise in this transfer window, I’m pleased with the ins and outs this summer. Our squad is neater, compact and focussed.

It’s Brendan’s second season and he’s here for at least five in total. Just think how we are going to look a year from now?

I’m excited to see how we do against the best in Europe. It’s where we want to be and it’s the level all players should aspire to.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Tooling up for Europe

Celtic avoided a group of death in yesterday’s Champions League draw. Thankfully they also avoided Barcelona.

Each of their opponents come with their own challenge. In the past Celtic have faced each of these teams home and away once in European competition.

From Pot 1 came Bayern Munich. Now let’s not beat about the bush, they are a formidable team with a well respected manager.

Celtic lost in Munich 2-1 in 2003 followed by a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park, both matches being played in the group stage of the Champions League. Bayern were a good team back then, but they are far superior now.

The five-in-a-row Bundesliga Champions made the quarter finals of the Champions League last season. It was only after extra time that they lost out to eventual Champions, Real Madrid.

I’m pleased to be playing them after such a long time. It will be a tough test for Celtic, but that’s why we’re in this competition.

Out of Pot 2 came Paris Saint Germain. The last time Celtic faced them was in the Cup Winners Cup in 1995.

Back then both games were won by PSG. They slaughtered Celtic 0-3 at Celtic Park and 1-0 at Parc Des Princes.

That was a team that included some pretty amazing players. The current PSG side is pretty glamorous to say the least with Neymar top of that list.

Last season PSG made the last sixteen of the Champions League. They hammered Barcelona 4-0 in Paris but lost the away leg 6-1 and the tie 5-6.

In Pot 3 Celtic drew Anderlecht. They are Celtic’s best chance at getting points.

Celtic last played the Belgians in 2003 in the same group with Bayern Munich. Celtic were beaten by ten man Anderlecht 1-0 but the home tie was won convincingly 3-1 by the Hoops allowing them to finish third and parachute into the UEFA Cup where they reached the quarter finals.

Anderlecht cannot be underestimated though because they are in this competition on merit. They made the quarter finals of the Europa League last season, losing out to eventual winners Manchester United.

So Celtic have their work cut out for themselves. If ever there was a reason to invest in a couple of more players then this is it.

Injuries have left Brendan Rodgers selections threadbare this season. Against these clubs Celtic will get annihilated playing without a proper striker or central defensive pairing.

It will be tough to recruit quality and experience for the right price. There is also a necessity to find it before next week’s deadline.

Rivaldo Coetzee is supposed to have signed already, but that has not been confirmed by Celtic. At 20 years of age he may not be seen as the immediate answer.

He has played for South Africa more than twenty times. So there is some international experience in there for him.

So far the Patrick Roberts story goes on. If this was going to be a loan deal I would imagine it would have been sealed by now.

Therefore it is more likely that Celtic are trying to bring him in on a permanent deal with umpteen clauses just to satisfy Manchester City. That’s where the delay is most likely to be.

Brendan still needs another striker and defender. Even on loan deals if need be.

We have an exciting tournament starting next month. Let’s tool up for it.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac