It’s hard playing away from home in Europe, statistically, the hardest thing we do (harder still than guessing what bizarre nonsense Craig Thomson will get up to next). For all our great Champions League nights, our record on the Continent (or any other continent, as the case may be) is poor.
Hapoel Beer Shiva’s expectations will be low, but their job tonight is remarkably simple: score, then score again, then see what happens to Celtic. They scored twice in two minutes at Celtic Park, and if they can do the same in 80 minutes in Israel, that +£20m pot you’ve been reading about it anyone’s.
We need big performances from our big players, most notably Craig Gordon and Kolo Toure. I’ve no concerns we’ll get what’s necessary from Leigh Griffiths, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair. Therein lies the tactical problem for Hapoel.
They would prefer to play this game as they played Olympiakos: on the break. Instead, they have to chase the tie, which will leave space for Celtic’s fast front three to exploit.
Tactically, this is a very difficult task to prepare for the home team to prepare for, which is why Hapoel are 9-1 against qualifying, high odds for a two horse race. They need to play the opponent, so should defend, but they also need to play the aggregate score, so need to create lots of chances.
Teams who attempt to square this circle often lose the match. Let’s hope.
1-2, Celtic, on the night.