CAPTAIN Scott Brown yesterday stressed just how important it is for Celtic to beat Ajax at Celtic Park on Thursday, to keep the club in with a chance of qualifying from the Europa League Group and to take some of the pressure that has mounted on manager Ronny Deila due to what has been so far a hugely disappointing season in European competitions.
“Ajax is a huge game for us,” Brown said after yesterday’s frustrating goalless encounter with Kilmarnock. “It’s make or break. If we don’t win we don’t go through, simple as that and we’ll only have ourselves to blame, the players that are on the park.”
Yet no-one is more frustrated that Deila himself. As he reflected on the campaign so far you sense the frustration, particularly when his side were unable to see out matches from winning positions. Ronny reflected on this yesterday: “I thought we did really, really well against Fenerbahce here.
“The crowd were behind us, we kicked off and went 2-0 up and we’re just disappointed in ourselves that we didn’t manage to get the three points and hold out.”
On yesterday’s draw, Deila was also frustrated: “It was very frustrating. We had 70 per cent possession but there was a lack of tempo, creativity and timing in the last third of the pitch.
“We didn’t create enough even though we had chances and should have won the game. This has nothing to do with Ajax though. Every game we want to win and to perform well.
“The boys had good attitude, they did everything they could but the timing just wasn’t good. That’s maybe been the first time this year, when we talk about the league.
“We’ve scored a lot of goals but today wasn’t our day. It was disappointing from that point of view but the positive is we had a clean sheet.
“I felt safe that we would do it against Kilmarnock, the defending was good.’
“And I was very pleased with Jozo Simunovic – I think he had a very good match. That was another positive.
“There are always some positives among the negatives but the end result was not good enough.”
Celtic have Nir Bitton and Stefan Johansen suspected for the match against Ajax. Kris Commons, who was missed yesterday, is struggling with both a bug and a tight hamstring but the manager is sure that his skipper will be ready after taking some hefty challenges from a dogged Kilmarnock side.
On Brown injury yesterday the manager had this to say:“I asked him and he said it was just a knock so I think that will be good, it is nothing to do with what he had before. It is a possibility Commons is back. We’ll see on Tuesday how it is.”
James Forrest looked in the mood yesterday and Scott Allan returned from injury and looked lively in the closing moments. Given Celtic’s midfield suspensions and injuries, he might feature on Thursday in what we hope is a packed Celtic Park.
THE WINDS OF CHANGE is out now on CQN Books! ORDER HERE or click on the image below. If you enjoyed Caesar & The Assassin you will want to continue the story of managing Celtic after Jock Stein. This time we feature 7 Celtic managers and one caretaker, Kenny Dalglish as we cover the period 1991-2005. Not much happened at Celtic in these years so you will be surprised that we have well over 400 pages!