As Celtic enter their eighth European encounter of the season before the month of August is out, the A Celtic State of Mind team are confident that Neil Lennon’s side will progress to Europa League group stages. Here are the prematch thoughts of Kevin Graham and Martin Donaldson:
It seems a bit early to be talking about a season-defining week, but this could well be in that category. We have Europe, a Glasgow Derby and the transfer window closing. Three opportunities for the club to show that things are going in the right direction on and off the park. Or three opportunities to show that things are going wrong on and off the park.
The Europa League is being dressed up as failure for the club while hailed as success for others. Some are getting financial windfalls; we are facing financial failure after the defeat to Cluj. While our club has wishes to be in the Champions League, it doesn’t show the ambition. This Europa League play-off is where we deserve to be and, despite our lead, we still have work to do.
AIK Stockholm offered very little in the first leg and they need to come out at some point to try and score the three goals required. They were physical and well-organised first time round but never showed that attacking threat.
Celtic under Neil Lennon have been unpredictable, but we have managed to get results. There seems to be a lack of consistency in team selection and formation, which has led to the players seeming unsure at times, especially defensively, as to what they are meant to be doing.
We should have enough to see this tie out. No one would blame Lennon for strangling the life out this game but we haven’t shown the defensive solidity to say that would be a great tactic. First goal is crucial. If we get it, then its game over. If we don’t this will be a massive test.
Celtic go into their final qualifying match of a long quest to make it to the European group stages. Two second-half goals from James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard gave Celtic a well-deserved lead in the first leg in Glasgow, but, having watched Celtic in European action over the years, we all know this tie has some life in it yet.
With Edouard rested at the weekend, the Celtic frontline should be at full strength with the young Frenchman leading the way to goal, supported by Forrest, Johnson and Christie.
Once again, the Celtic defence will be under close scrutiny. Kristoffer Ajer has shown he is happy playing out from the central role or as a right-back, and big-money signing, Christopher Jullien, has shown a little more stability in the last couple of games.
I see this being a nervy match (because let’s face it, they always are away from home in Europe), with Celtic securing a score draw and a place in the group stages after the international break.
*all odds are subject to change