AEK Athens have played only four friendly fixtures since losing the Greek Cup Final on 12 May. They failed to score in three of those games, beating Galatasaray 3-2 at home in the more recent game. The fixtures have been spread out: with 6 days, 8 days and 10 days between them. There will be a gap of 8 days between the Galatasaray game and their visit to Celtic Park tomorrow, so there has been no intensity to their efforts.
AEK needed to prepare an entire squad, not just a starting 11, during these games. This is not appropriate preparation for one of the most important ties of the season. It feels like an inexplicable oversight, I would be livid if this was Celtic’s preparation for this tie. Such complacency deserves to be punished.
By contrast, Celtic have played five competitive games and five friendlies since our 12 May Cup Final. The fitness strategy contrast between our squad and AEK’s is stark. As a consequence, we have to make tomorrow’s game a multi-ball, unrelenting, occasion.
Even if the game is tight at 80 minutes, how we finish the match could have a significant bearing on who progresses. This is when you would expect AEK’s lack of fitness to be most telling. Players lose concentration and coordination when tired. This is when we should look to push the tie over the edge.