Cautious optimism - Celtic v Borussia Mönchengladbach match previewThe win over Motherwell was business as usual for Celtic at the weekend, now the attention turns to Europe as Celtic seek to pick up their first win of the Champions League group stage. Borussia Mönchengladbach are unfamiliar opponents, with Celtic having never played them in a competitive match. The Bundesliga side currently sit 8th in the table, with 11 points from 7 games. Their league record thus far is 3 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats, with a neutral goal difference, 10 scored, 10 conceded.
Can the Hoops pick up their first win of the group?
In the Champions League, the Germans have lost both of their opening group stage matches, versus Manchester City and Barcelona. A rejuvinated Manchester City, under Pep Guardiola, put 4 goals past Mönchengladbach, with Sergio 'Kun' Aguero grabbing a hat trick. In their next match, against Barcelona, they took the lead, only for Barcelona to come back and win the game 2-1.
Considering Celtic were on the receiving end of a 7-0 thrashing against Barcelona, taking the lead then narrowly losing to Barcelona is an indication of the quality that Borussia Mönchengladbach obviously possess. Celtic did restore pride and belief with a well earned 3-3 draw with the English league leaders at Parkhead, in their second match. Celtic can possibly count themselves unlucky to have not taken more from that match, but the same could be said of Manchester City. What it proved is that this Celtic squad can compete with the best clubs in Europe, on their day.
Brendan Rodgers was brought in as Ronny Deila's replacement. The Norwegian manager departed Celtic Park having won two league titles in a row and a league cup. However, by his own admission, the job was too big for him. Despite his domestic success, Deila's Celtic team struggled in Europe and failed the qualify for the Champions League group stages, in both seasons he was in charge of. Whispers pulsed through the lips of the Celtic support and rumours darted across the internet messageboards; something wasn't quite right at Celtic. We can only speculate as to what was really going on behind the scenes at the club, but whatever it was, it wasn't translating to good performances on the pitch. Delivering the club's 5th title in a row, yet somehow, there was still a dark cloud over the club for a large part of the season.
It was on 20th April 2016, that Deila announced that we would be leaving the club at the end of the season. He stated that the improvements he wanted to implement, hadn't materialised, amongst other things. It was then that the Celtic fans started to discuss who they wanted as a replacement.
David Moyes, Roy Keane, Owen Coyle, Brendan Rodgers... the usual long list of names were linked with the job. At one point, Moyes was the bookies' favourite and many who are of a green and white persuasion had him as their first choice. However, others wanted Brendan Rodgers, who had been out of a job since leaving Liverpool earlier that season. Many outsiders scoffed at the prospect of Rodgers joining Celtic, some even mocking the idea. Rodgers, a Celtic man, jumped at the prospect of managing a team so close to his heart. Considerably large slices of humble pie were being served across the country as 13,000 Celtic fans went to see Rodgers' unveiling at their beloved Paradise.
The intent was clear, the fans and the club wanted Champions League football, and Rodgers was the man who was entrusted with the daunting task of guiding the team - low on confidence from the season just gone - through the Champions League qualifiers.
Despite an early initial setback in Gibraltar, the new Celtic boss did what none of his recent predecessors managed, he guided Celtic to the Champions League group stages on his first attempt, bringing with it the level of European football and riches the fans and club so desired.
After qualification was secured in Israel, Celtic awaited the group stage draw. As the last team drawn out, Celtic were given the hardest group possible. However, as previously mentioned, the performance against Manchester City showed the team's quality and this allows for some cautious optimism against Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Celtic fans showing solidarity with Palestine before the match that was possibly the highlight of the qualifying campaign, a 5-2 victory over Hapoel Be'er Sheva.
With Celtic a place above Borussia Mönchengladbach in the group table, a win at Celtic Park would greatly boost their chances of qualification from the group at best, or provide European football after Christmas at the very least.
So many Celtic players are on a great run of form at the moment. The feeling sweeping through and surrounding the club is electric. The names on the team sheet roll off the tongue with a certain level of glee. Dembele, Sinclair, Toure, Sviatchenko, Rogic, Brown, Tierney, Lustig and Forrest. All of those mentioned have been key factors in the team's relative early success thus far. With other key players such as Griffiths and Roberts waiting in the wings, the fans have reason to be hopeful.
There are no easy matches for Celtic at this level and it would be disrespectful and idiotic to underestimate Gladbach's quality. They are strong on the counter attack and organised in defence. As usual, Celtic will need to be clinical with the chances they create and the form of Moussa Dembele, who is undroppable at the moment, is likely to be the man Brendan Rodgers can rely upon.
Dembele, the hottest property in Europe at the momentA lot of expectation is being put upon the home match versus Borussia Mönchengladbach, as their 54,000 seater stadium in the west of Germany will not be an easy place to pick up a result. Gladbach have the fourth largest fan club in Germany and they are one of the country's most successful teams, with their greatest spell coming in the 1970's.
They have won the Bundesliga 5 times, the latest being in 1977, the same year that they lost to Liverpool in the final of the European Cup. However, they did win the UEFA Cup in both 1975 and 1979. Their most recent major trophy success came in the DFB Pokal (The German Cup) in 1995. Their most famous player, who also holds most appearances for the club, is a man who is very familiar with Scotland, world cup winner Berti Vogts.
The modern day Borussia have no players of that calibre, but the Celtic squad will have to play at their best to stand any chance of getting the 3 points we need. Gladbach usually play a 3-4-3 formation, with Eden Hazard's younger brother, Thorgan, being one of their main creative outlets. He has three goals in 7 Bundesliga games this season, along with 4 goals in Europe. Stopping him will be vital to Celtic's success.
The final word must go to the incredible Celtic support. So many people have said it, including the players, but they are the 12th man on nights like this. Any Celtic fan within the stadium on Wednesday night should offer the team their full backing and recreate the atmosphere that has made Paradise so famous. The Green Brigade will likely have another dazzling display and the feeling of pride and passion will be coursing through all of our veins. There's nothing quite like Celtic.