- Bhoys Yearn For Bayer Blitz
~~~~ Official TC Match Preview ~~~~
James Forrest strike sends the Hoops through to the League Cup Final
Thursday, 25 November 2021
After clinching their place in the League Cup Final at the weekend, Celtic now must turn their attention to Europe, and a clash with German side, Bayer Leverkusen, on Thursday evening.
Celtic's chances of progressing beyond the turn of the year in Europe were dramatically boosted by the back to back victories over Ferencvaros in those two spirited and entertaining games making that all but certain.
A single point in this next game would make it a mathematical impossibility for Hungarian side to overtake the Hoops on the Group G table, irrespective of what happens in the other match in the Group.
But there is an even more ambitious goal at stake - the possibility of setting up a Matchday 6 showdown with Real Betis for a place in the Europa League knockout phase.
getting something out of this game against the Bundesliga outfit could prove critical to achieving that.
Leverkusen have had a bit of a wobble since the last time when these sides met, when the Germans side handed the Bhoys a 4-0 defeat on Matchday 2. Since that night, Thursday's hosts have won just 3 of the 9 games they've played in all competitions - including being knocked out of the German Cup.
Although, that trend could be shifting, with two of those wins having come in their last 3 games - with one being the 4-0 result over Real Betis earlier this month, which has already booked them a place in the next phase of the Europa League.
Celtic meanwhile, have been undefeated over that same period - the goaless draw with Livingston the only blemish on an otherwise perfect run of results, winning 8 of the last 9 games.
This is in addition to having won the last 5 away from home - 6 if you include Saturday's game at Hampden Park also.
With the Hoops still searching for their first ever competitive win on German soil, Ange Postecoglou has already indicated that he will be looking for the Bhoys to play with the attacking flair that has been dubbed 'Angeball', while reflecting on the previous meeting between the sides, striking a very upbeat chord.
Indeed, the Bhoys have already scored 12 goals on their travels this European campaign - 6 of which have come in the two group stage games against Real Betis and Ferencvaros. Unfortunately, they have also conceded 12 in the same 5 matches overall - and 6 of which have also come against Betis and Ferencvaros.
The perfect outcome on Thursday of course would be for Celtic to get some payback and walk away with the win, while Ferencvaros takes something away from their match with Real Betis, but it's important to focus on the here and now, rather than look too far down the line and what might be.
And the Australian manager was keen to point this out, commenting:
Going into Thursday's match, there is potentially a big question mark hanging over the make up of the side, chiefly in regards to the defence. Stephen Welsh was on the recieving end of a Shaun Rooney elbow to the side of the head during Saturday's League Cup Semi-Final, which left him groggy on the deck for a few minutes, and had to be substituted. And this was on top of taking a knock while playing for Scotland U/21's last week.
It remains unclear about the extent of the injury, and should Welsh be unavailable it could be a majot headavhe for Ange Postecoglou unless Carl Starfelt has sufficientlyrecovered from his recent hamstring strain.
There was hope that Christopher Julien would be ready to get back into action after 10 months out, but it appears that he isn't quite there yet, and Postecoglou is being cautious to ensure the big Frenchman doesn't return prematurely, when he was asked about a return for the central defender.
If not, it is likely that Nir Bitton could be pressed into serving once again as a makeshift defender, with Irish international James McCarthy slotting into the holding midfielder's role.
And as James Forrest continues to get more game time into his legs and confidence will be further bouyed by his match-winning goal at the weekend, has already added competition for Liel Abada for the right winger's spot.
Meanwhile, the hosts have had their own troubles, with fitness concerns handing over four of their key players - Julian Baumgartlinger (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee), Mitchel Bakker (ankle), Patrick Schick (ankle) and Charles Aranguiz (calf) all ruled out, while there are doubts about both Lucas Alario and Karim Bellarabi also.
On top of all of this, they will also be without midfielder Kerem Demirbay, who was shown a red card in the previous round against Real Betis and therefore must now serve a one match suspension.
~~~~ Head to Head ~~~~
P: 1 W: 0 D: 0 L: 1
Against German Opposition
P: 23 W: 4 D: 4 L: 15
P: 11 W: 0 D: 3 L: 8
~~~~ 2021/22 Form ~~~~
WWWDW ~ WDWLL
WWLL - WDWW
CEL AWAY - LEV HOME
WWWWW - WWLLL