Posted on Saturday, 29th October 2011 by Krys
Having gubbed Hibernian in the League Cup in midweek, they’re coming through to Glasgow for a traditional Saturday 3pm (10 ET, 7 PT) kick off in the SPL. Following that, it’s another Thursday night game against Rennes, and the only home match of the three Europa League games that kicks off at the sensible 8.05pm time.
Viewers in the US should note daylight savings changes in the UK but not the US this Sunday, so that’s 16.05 ET and 13.05 PT. We’ll be back to the five and eight hour gap by the time we face Motherwell next Sunday, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.
The League Cup victory over Hibs was the proverbial game of two halves. They were good and we weren’t in the first half, we were good and they weren’t in the second half. The difference? Switching to play Kayal and Ledley in the centre of midfield once more! Well, that and our attackers could beat their goalkeeper while their attackers couldn’t beat ours. The goal Hibs got was going out for a throw-in when Ivan Sproule hit it and only a bit of bad luck for Dan Majstorovic meant it ended up in the net. To be fair, Fraser Forster had a terrific one-on-one save from Leigh Griffiths but that was more or less the only time they hit the target. Hopefully that continues on Saturday.
What we also hope continues on Saturday is the second half performance. Joe has already mentioned the influential James Forrest. His goals turned it round. The first was a lovely bit of individual play, while the second was yet more proof that the defender with his hand in the air claiming offside is usually the defender who has played the attacker on. Funnily enough, this was also evident for our final goal on Wednesday night when Gary Hooper beat their offside trap. That was a goal as soon as Hooper took that decent first touch. We’re even scoring from set pieces of late. A penalty against Udinese, crossed free kicks against Kilmarnock and Aberdeen, and now an Anthony Stokes header from a corner.
But never mind the goals. What I liked the most about the second half on Wednesday night was the obvious difference in confidence throughout the team from the first half. Passes were coming off, we were spreading the play about like we should be… Everyone just looked happier with the way things were going and that can make such a huge difference. Applying that to our league performances – ideally in both halves – should see us start to move in the right direction there.
We play Hibernian in the afternoon, but by that time Rangers will be finished up in Aberdeen. Having seen Aberdeen last week, I suspect Rangers will get the three points – although it’s rarely a good venue for them to visit so you never know. Motherwell are visiting Inverness so there’s potential for them to struggle there but again I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re still third at the end of the day. Hopefully still with a chance to take second from Motherwell next week.
With the League Cup put to bed until the end of January, and the Scottish Cup not starting until the new year, the only distraction from the SPL for a while is the Europa League. Rennes were no great shakes against us nine days ago but that’s not to say they won’t be much improved when we face them again on Thursday. The team that played against us in France had eight changes from the team that had beaten Lorient 2-0 the weekend before. They have been known to rotate their squad quite a bit under manager Frederic Antonetti and while it’s possible Rennes see Ligue 1 as the more important tournament, just as we see the SPL as more important, they know that they more or less need to win at Celtic Park to have any chance of being in Europe after Christmas.
But so do we. The away draw was a good start as far as we’re concerned, but now we need to finish this particular job and ensure we take the four points we need from these two games to give ourselves a shot at ousting either Udinese or Atletico Madrid. Here’s a carrot to dangle. If Celtic can get the three points against Rennes, and Udinese complete the double over Atletico when they travel to Spain, then we’ll be second ahead of Atletico before they visit Glasgow on match day five. That would make the mathematics simple – beat Atletico Madrid at home and we’ll be through to the knockout round with a match to spare.
Granted, that’s a lot of ifs, buts and maybes, but that’s the kind of thing that should be motivating us to get the three points against Rennes. For me, they are the weakest of the three teams we have to face. If we can’t get three points at home against them then we probably shouldn’t be thinking about Europe at all. Mind you, I’m sure there’s a certain chairman of a certain Swiss club who thinks that anyway.
About that… CAS will deliver their verdict just a week before match day 5 is due to be played. The group will be just about done, so what if CAS rule in Sion’s favour? What are these options that UEFA have suggested? This might make you laugh.
Option one. Cancel all the group matches that have been played already and play a league of five. The Europa League used to have groups of five where you got four games – two home and two away – and everyone played each other once. It was stupid because you could end up playing the best team at home and the worst team away while someone else plays the worst team at home and the best team away. That could make a huge difference – and often did. That’s one of the reasons they changed the format to be more like the Champions League. Anyway, there are two group match dates left but they’re out of sync with the two Champions League dates so they could use those weeks as well.
Option two. Leave the games as they are, but add Sion into a group of five. That would mean our four results by then would stand, we’d still have the remaining two games to play, but we’d also have to play Sion twice and so would the other three teams. So that’s another two games for us, another six games for Sion on top of that – they need another eight match days. Apparently to do that they would end up going into February next year but that also assumed we started playing this format at the start of November. CAS don’t rule until the November 24th.
Option three. Have Sion play an as yet unspecified playoff prior to the knockout stages after Christmas. This is dragging on so long they might do that..
I think I prefer option four. Tell Sion, Christian Constantpain and all, to do one and don’t break the rules next time.
Krys (twitter @Krys1888 and for podcast and website updates @TheLostBhoys & @HomeBhoys)
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