'If Celtic score first, hold on to your hat'
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 1:00:19 PM
Trailing 2-0 in the Champions League Play-off Round with a second-leg trip to Emirates Stadium on the horizon. Perhaps any other team in Europe would have all but given up.
They qualified for this stage after over-turning a 1-0 aggregate deficit against Dinamo Moscow with their first away victory in Europe for six years.
So with that 'monkey off their back', Tony Mowbray’s men will travel to North London full of hope, if not expectation. But that's more than enough for them.
Ahead of the clash we spoke to Hugh Keevins of the Daily Record for a reflection on the first leg, Mowbray’s positive football and the magic of Aiden McGeady.
THE STORY SO FAR
“For 44 minutes at Parkhead it was a marvellous contest and the 60,000 crowd at Celtic were in the match. Then when the ball came off William Gallas’ back it seemed to drain the life from the Celtic players. They were never the same team after. When they should have started the second half on fire they didn’t and then when the second goal went in, all hope was lost for the night.
“Celtic felt that Arsenal were lucky with the goals but - to his eternal credit - Arsène Wenger was the first man to use the word ‘lucky’ in the press room at Celtic Park after the game. If you’re a realist, you know that Arsenal in Glasgow were a better side than Celtic. If you’re a realist you know that Arsenal with their two-goal start at the Emirates must be the overwhelming favourites this time.”
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
"Celtic need to score, clearly. To be fair to Tony Mowbray his approach to football is a positive one. Some Celtic fans believe, in fact, that he may be too positive; there isn’t enough emphasis on defence. Celtic this season have been caught out, particularly Gary Caldwell, at the back. However, he knows that he must win by at least two goals, so that will be Celtic’s philosophy.
“I think you used the perfect expression earlier on when you said ‘monkey off their back’. Celtic under Gordon Strachan twice went to the last 16 of the Champions League and never won away from home. Celtic under Martin O’Neill went to the final of the Uefa Cup against Porto in Seville in 2003 but, in terms of the Champions League under Martin O’Neill in a team with Jon Hartson, Chris Sutton, Henrik Larsson, did not win away from home in a Champions League match. So it was a monkey off Celtic’s back. Six years of trying to get that achievement on the record books. So now they come to Arsenal by far the underdogs, but ready to give it a go."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
“I watched Arsenal on Saturday take Portsmouth apart. The opening that they made to that match, even though they scored after 18 minutes, they should have scored two or three times before then. So I expect Arsenal to go at Celtic in the same way they went at Portsmouth. The big question in my mind is can Celtic’s defence withstand that sort of opening, and will Artur Boruc in the Celtic goal need to be as commanding as David James was for Portsmouth.”
“I would say the majority of fans are realists and believe that Celtic will be in Friday’s Europa League draw not Thursday’s Champions League draw. However, they went to Dinamo Moscow a goal down and for the first time in six years won a Champions League match away from home. That proves that you can never say never.
“Celtic supporters go everywhere, and you’ll find this at the Emirates, they go everywhere believing that their team can do something. They scored five goals at the weekend. They’re buoyant. They are missing Landry N’Guemo because of suspension, and he will be a big miss. But no man, woman or chid who enters the Emirates tomorrow night to support Celtic will tell you the tie is over.”
MAN OF THE MOMENT
“He’s pretty much the heart and soul of Celtic, the fans adore him. He’s committed himself to Celtic. He’s had interest from down south, Tottenham, if I’m allowed to mention that word. They have had a big interest. He’s the one player who’s probably outstanding at Celtic. So much is expected of him, and that’s probably a burden on his shoulders. They go into every game expecting Aidan McGeady to be a magician but I’m quite certain he’ll revel on the centre stage at the Emirates."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
“Very entertaining; this is football from a different world so far as we in Scotland are concerned. I say that without a blush and I say that knowing that the majority of the people in Scotland would agree with me. Arsenal under Arsène Wenger have always been a tremendously attractive side to watch. The talent seems to be endless. When you can bring on Aaron Ramsey for Cesc Fabregas and he scores. When Kieran Gibbs can play as well as he did at the back and still be a teenager, when you’ve Jack Wilshire whose already had a go at Rangers. Then you get to the glitterati at Arsenal - a fabulous squad."
THE EMIRATES EFFECT
“There are so many Celtic fans who live in and around London. Many will come from Glasgow to see the Emirates because they’ve never had the chance before. They will come and they will create a party atmosphere. They will hope that Celtic can get the first goal and give them a match they can get their teeth into. But rely on this: you’ll hear more from the Celtic supporters than, with respect, you will from the Arsenal fans. I was a little surprised at how quiet the Emirates was on Saturday for the Portsmouth match, despite the scarves being given out to the fans. Celtic supporters will come and they will rock the Emirates.
“The first goal’s vital. If Celtic score it, hold on to your hat. If Arsenal score it, then I think Celtic supporters will say, well the tie is beyond us, let’s hope that the team can now give a credible show and allow us to leave the Emirates with our heads held high having come probably 500 miles from Scotland to see the game.”