Celtic will need to up the anté against Milan on Tuesday if they have any aspirations of playing Champions League football after Christmas – or any kind of European football for that matter. We’re in the Last Chance Saloon teetering on the brink of European expulsion.
Saturday’s performance against Aberdeen merely highlighted the lack of firepower and how heavily reliant we are on the midfield to produce the goods in front of goal.
I don’t buy into the “Stokes is a good SPL striker” theory either.
He’s not scored since September. He shares that unholy honour with Teemu Pukki who has been nothing short of terrible. There’s fleeting glimpses of a player somewhere in there, but time is no longer on his side and I’m beginning to lose patience. He looks like a man who would rather be somewhere else, doing something else. We can’t afford to hinge our future on someone like that.
Celtic have gone down the cheap road again, and gambled with our money and emotions. Is it any wonder they knocked £100 off the season tickets? They knew the team was diminished with the loss of Wilson, Wanyama and Hooper. There’s been no replacement for Hooper – a key figure in the last few season’s successes. Amido Balde, like Pukki, is a throw of the dice. Celtic list Samaras and Boerrigter as strikers on the official site, but the average punter knows they play wide rather than through the middle. Neither is an out and out penalty box player.
Frankly, they’ve hung Neil Lennon out to dry. They could have, and should have, gone for and captured Alfred Finnbogasson from Herenveen. The cumulative cost of Balde and Pukki could have paid for his signature – a guy who has scored a whopping 38 goals in 42 games since joining the Dutch side in August 2012. If rumours are true it’s likely he’ll be joining West Ham in January 2014, whilst we paid buttons for fellow Icelandic striker Holmbert Fridjonsson. I’m hoping he’s not another “work in progress”. Something Lennon denies.
The poor showing in Amsterdam will need to be majorly eclipsed. It’s not impossible, because Milan currently sit in tenth place in Serie A. They are a massive 19 points behind Roma at the top and just ahead of Cagliari, who sit in 13th spot by virtue of goal difference.
Encouragingly for Celtic, Allegri’s men have won just three of their 12 league matches this season and haven’t won in their last six in all competitions.
Celtic on the other hand have yet to be beaten in the league, having played 13 games thus far, but Serie A is a different proposition.
Milan are perilously closed to the relegation zone having made their worst start to a Serie A season in 32 years. Celtic should be rubbing their hands together and should go for the kill. Winning is a great habit to be in and losing is a hard one to get out of.
The Rossoneri support, and in particular their “Ultras”, are on the teams back, enhancing the pressure on its players.
But let’s not get too confident here. Celtic performed well in Milan only to be undone by two late goals and it would be absolute folly to dismiss any top European side.
There’s a hell of a lot riding on this game, for both sides, this Tuesday night. For Celtic it could spell the end of European competition this season (bear in mind we face Barca away in the last group game). Milan have it in their own hands to finish second in the group and there should be a steely determination about how they go about their business. But can they find that strength as their season unravels? Will they buckle under the pressure?
Celtic pretty much blew it in Amsterdam but have a massive chance of hanging on in the quest for second place, but they will have to play out of their skins.
I fear the lack of firepower may well cost them.
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