Celtic again vulnerable to counter in Europe


20 minutes into last night’s Europa League game against Valencia, Celtic looked competent and in control, if not dangerous.  We had the majority of the ball (as we did for the rest of the game), enjoyed possession inside the Valencia box and had shots on target.

Valencia were probably happy to resist us for this opening period, but from that point onwards, they inhibited Celtic’s midfield from enjoying as much freedom.  Neither side made a chance worthy of the name until the opening goal, three minutes before the break.  Valencia’s second, four minutes after the interval, meant the tie was decided during a very short period of play.

While we opened well we failed to involve Oliver Burke throughout.  The only possession he got was to his feet with his back to goal, the ball invariably bouncing away from him.  Burke is a player who needs service into the channels – something that happened only once before the goals arrived.

For years I have shared fears here of Celtic playing so high up field against European opposition.  Tactics like this result in positives like “What a torrid opening four minutes we gave Juventus” before a counter-attack settles things.

I was actually encourage when Valencia started to compete more effectively midway through the first half, as our best game plan was to counter.  Keep it tight and play on the break, at this level, anything else is a ticket out of the tournament.  And that’s not just for Celtic, these are the tactics Valencia deployed.

The opening goal came through a poor attempt to play offside.  Jozo Simunovic stepped up as Parejo made the forward pass, forcing Sobrino into what should have been an offside position, but Emilio Izaguirre was four paces back, ostensibly, but not actually, covering Cheryshev.  Emilio did no better at the second goal, allowing Sobrino freedom of the box.  Insert the hoary old schoolboy analogy here.

There were things I liked, specifically, playing the ball out from the back.  With central defenders wide, full backs high and central mids deep, Scott Bain was able to find a player in space, 40 yards from goal, and start an attack.  This play is still in its infancy at Celtic, but we need to stick with it.

The impact of Odsonne Eduard, who played the last 30 minutes, was immediate.  It took defenders (plural) to close him down.  We also saw a new aspect to Timothy Weah, who came on at the same time as Edouard as a creative mid.  It was a curious performance from Timothy.  He was everywhere for five minutes, then stuck to position (presumably on instructions) and dropped out of things.

Central mid did not work.  Immediately after a defeat, there is a rabid tendency to find a scapegoat, which is seldom productive, but we need to ask the question why central mid didn’t work, and get it right for the qualifiers.  As for the defence, only Jozo will be around for the qualifiers, and he will most often be sitting beside us in the stands, so the consequences of these mistakes will not linger beyond May.

Valencia are not a PSG.  In competitive terms, I would put them between Salzburg and Leipzig.   I am not going to tell you we would put them out, but if we had played it tight, the tie would still be in the balance.

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  1. The hands cant hit what the eyes cant see on

    @ BOURNESOUPRECIPE on 15TH FEBRUARY 2019 11:25 AM – from previous article



    European nights and the big games attract more interest and, consequently, more comments. These are the games where Celtic players and coaching staff earn their money.



    There is no doubting that Valencia have a better team man for man and have a bigger budget; although they are not one of the continent’s “super clubs”. Their 2016/17 revenue was €102m (excluding player sales). Higher than ours, but not by an order of many times, unlike Barca/Real/English teams.



    Last night Malmo lost 2-1 to Chelsea at home, BATE defeated Arsenal 1-0 at home and Brugge defeated RB Salzburg 2-1 at home. All better results than Celtic’s against better or equivalent opposition and, arguably, achieved by inferior or smaller teams than Celtic.



    It shouldn’t be as binary as to say, more money equates to automatic result; in that case why have each of Hearts, Kilmarnock and Hibs proved such thorns in our side this season?



    Celtic should be doing better with their transfer policy off the field. However, BR has to take a lot of responsibility for his inability to set up a team in Europe to be difficult to beat. On the balance of probabilities, you would expect us to get at least one result at home against Salzburg, Anderlecht and Valencia.



    Naive strategy is costing us at a European level and, notwithstanding domestic exploits, it’s still acceptable to criticise.

  2. traditionalist88 on

    Valencia are not a PSG. In competitive terms, I would put them between Salzburg and Leipzig. I am not going to tell you we would put them out, but if we had played it tight, the tie would still be in the balance.





    You’re not allowed to say that, apparently.




  3. twa sneaky goals agin us……come on the Celtic …give them socks and hats in Spain…



    smiley a fighting chance is whiles hard thing….






    “if friends in time be severed


    some day we will meet again


    I,ll return to leave you never


    be a Celtic loon tae the end !”



    awfy braw

  4. The hands cant hit what the eyes cant see on

    “Keep it tight and play on the break, at this level, anything else is a ticket out of the tournament. And that’s not just for Celtic, these are the tactics Valencia deployed.”



    Exactly. Real Madrid did something similar against Ajax on Wednesday night, and that’s Real Madrid!



    Trying to pass out and build from the back at all costs will continue to cost us. Barca, Man City and Bayern Munich can take that approach, but they have a combined turnover of between €1.5-2bn.

  5. Brown and Izaguirre were the major problems last night. Izzy shouldn’t have been on the pitch, Brendan takes the hit for that. Easy fix though as KT comes back soon. McGregor was unusually poor although in fairness spent half his time covering Izzy. Brown was awful on he ball, consistently sloppy and giving it away. We could not move the ball through midfield at all due to this. He was not as combative as the Valencia midfield and lost too many duels without covering enough ground. In the second half, Toljan and Izzy took up positions on the wings and other players dropped deep such as Weah, to take the ball, on a number of occasions Brown did not move into position to create the triangle thus denying opportunity to move forward with the ball. I’m not sure if Scott was hiding it just didn’t back himself to take the ball in difficult areas. Izzy is not fit for purpose at this level and neither is Brown or we want to play cat and mouse football.

  6. Yep, keep it tight and stay in the game then you have Edouard and Weah to come off the bench and win it



    Ah well, please just win on Sunday

  7. Paul67


    Can you expand on the chances or pressure we put the Valencia keeper under in first 20-25 mins ?


    Shots on target ???


    I seen us have 1, yes 1 attempt at goal in the full 90 mins +


    A Calum McGregor shot

  8. traditionalist88 on







    Unforced errors in the team and in the dugout are contributing to our downfall against sides at a level, recent history shows us, we should otherwise have a very good chance against, at least at home.




  9. Our pragmatic results in recent years have come from all or most of players doing their jobs in a system for the game on that evening.



    How many of our players did their jobs last night?



    1/2 maybe, we got what we deserved from the game last night, nothing.



    Neither of the goals last night were caused by anything other than a team that can’t attack and defend as a team. Valencia had the freedom of Celtic Park to score last night.



    Back to the drawing board Brendan…

  10. traditionalist88 on

    DAVID17 on 15TH FEBRUARY 2019 12:23 PM


    Had we played Paris last night it would have been another 0-5 reverse. It’s where we are.





    At least 5. Probably more. Yet they average 3 goals per game in France where they are also streets ahead of the competition and play against some tiny clubs in comparison to us.



    Sorry to mention it again but 12 in 2 games they got against us and it was no fluke.



    So something is wrong somewhere, whether some like to talk about it or not. I am talking about it because I know we can do better against Tier 2 clubs and also because I fear a double figure hiding one day playing with Rodgers tactics against a Tier 1 club,




  11. D17


    There was numerous opportunities for us to miss a player and go wide to a player in space


    No idea why players not lifting their head and taking this option


    How many crossfield pass attempts – 0


    How many balls over the top to force them back and turn – 0


    System being played has us to rigid, and not creating space

  12. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    If ever there was a game to highlight how meaningless the possession stats are, that was it.


    64% in Celtic’s “favour”, the folly of passing the ball around the back was clearly exposed, but when you can’t even play a simple pass to a team-mate, things get so much harder. Valencia, with their 36%, controlled the game from start to finish.


    I thought the least we would do was to let them know they had been in a game. Didn’t even manage that.


    A few passes go astray and we panic and lose our composure, then more passes go astray, then more until we were playing with so much fear that it stopped becoming a contest.


    The poor ball retention then spread to the decision making.


    Never been a fan of the proven failed isolated one up front, but when it isn’t even a proper striker it’s even less likely to work.


    Weah finally provided some movement and Edouard some direct running with the ball but it was too little too late.


    Showed how much we miss Tierney. With KT, Benkovic and Ntcham (or even Bitton) it could have been a different game.


    (Could we have played Bitton and deployed the “box” midfield?).


    Does the “keep doing the same thing, keep getting the same result” theory kick in at some point and try something different or do we just accept that we will never progress from this stage?


    Not the reason we lost, but the ref was an absolute richard. Gave us nothing all night.


    Thought Piccini looked good!

  13. “Scott Bain was able to find a player in space, 40 yards from goal, and start an attack. This play is still in its infancy at Celtic, but we need to stick with it.”



    Bain also played a couple of suicide passes last night that nearly cost us but in his defense he pulled off a great save from a header and also cleared a dreadful pass back to him from SB that also nearly cost us .


    The ‘tippy tappy’ build from the back style may well be in its infancy at Celtic but in order to successfully develop such tactics we need to recruit players who are able to do the simple things well, such as receive and pass the ball when under pressure, otherwise we are in for a lot more frustrating nights against better opposition than we face in the SPFL. Also didn’t someone one once mention that continuing to do the same thing and making the same mistake while hoping for a different result is a sign of madness?

  14. For what I saw, passing the ball around at the back wasn’t the cause of the two goals. Both goals were of the breakaway variety. The first after Calum was dispossessed illegally, the second when Brown was beaten in a tackle (yes it can happen).



    With Bain in goal, passing around at the back is looking good. No goals conceded domestically this year using that tactic. The Valencia players are quicker and speedier of thought than the common old SPL player so that gave us more of a test and some scary moments, sure. None of which led to a goal or even a chance.



    Of course, at some time in the future this will cost us a goal as it does to EVERY team (happened to Man City recently). Then we will get the wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding this tactic. In the same way that Zonal marking used to get a bad press.

  15. itscalledthemalvinas on

    Would anyone know the location of Tommy Burns grave in Linn cemetery ?


    I’m in the area this afternoon and would like to pay my respects.

  16. the long wait is over on

    I thought that Valencia were decent but not great in European terms as Paul says.



    Parejo , their captain and number 10 was, however, a class apart for the first half that he was on. Hard to believe (and somewhat scary on one level as an example of how good players now are at the very highest level) that he only has one full cap for Spain.



    Jock Stein I believe once said that in Europe you’re only as good as your weakest player.


    I think the same applies to any big game.



    Our two most damaging recent losses – last night and at Ibrox – came about at least partly as a result of insufficient cover at left back where we were then left , imho, incredibly weak either there or elsewhere.



    At Ibrox, McGregor got pulled out of midfield to play there , leaving Scott Brown exposed and us unable to push forward from midfield, and last night Izzy – whose form has been poor enough most of the season that both McGregor and Hayes have been tried there – just had a mare.



    Valencia were happy to let him have the ball all night , confident that he wasn’t going to do much damage.



    Europe’s over for another year – let’s just hope KT comes back as good as before and give us one less headache for the rest of the season.

  17. Paul67 et al



    Up until recently some were bemoaning not qualifying for the Champions League, and not just Peter Lawwell, but the fact is Valencia were a tier 3 team in a group with Juventus and Manchester Utd. How would we have done in that group, well Valencia gave us the answer. And no it was not the defence which cost us the two goals that we lost, it was losing possession two thirds up the park, McGregor just before half-time, and a combination of players just after it. Our opponents were better than us with or without the ball, on or off it, for most of the match. Is a more defensive approach likely to produce a different, better result, well only if we can defend better than we can attack against a team full of

  18. THCH @ 11.55



    Brendan Rodgers may be a lot of things but on £50K a week he’s not likely to be naïve.



    Neither, in personal career, coaching tactical or strategic matters. he’s brought the best the Celtic ‘money men’


    say he can have and things we see, like pathetic clichéd ‘failed transfer policy’ are just that, pathetic cliches, of course we should be doing better we signed EIGHT players in the January window its not our fault that McGinn, Piccini and A.N.Other regulary choose elsewhere .Celtic are in Europe all and over Europe last night on display is a theatre for future players, who’ll undoubtedly say yes.



    Brendan Rodgers is a one tactic manager, we are a one tactic team. he is on record as stating “ we tried parking the bus ‘ this was when we played in the Camp Nou and lost by SIX. He only makes tactical defensive substitutions when we are ahead in domestic games, its attack or bust, he’ll employ his strategy when he leaves for his next club (in summer see the Celtic cynics)



    Its not always ‘binary’ at Celtic and sure lesser IMHO managers have achieved monumental wins MON GS NFL all beat the best, we went toe for toe with a better team and lost two bad goals, the Celtic world doesn’t fall off its axis, when we lose to a good La Liga side.



    The transfer strategy and ‘the high press ‘ beat a Bundesliga side, in a worthy second in group placing and got us beyond Christmas in the Europa, all whilst being unbeaten trophy wise in Scotland, did WGS NFL RD et all achieve a half of that? and for me anyway trounces a rare win against Barcelona.



    Naive Millionaires CSC

  19. Go tell the Spartim on

    We need a full strength team fit for every game to have any chance of competing in Europe, though its obvious we have no intentions of trying to advance in competitions. Im loathed to be negative with BR as i believe in a lot of what he does and maybe the reason for his strategy is merely, as he always states, is to develop players id rather he developed alternative set ups, specifically in europe.



    We cant afford to go toe to toe with better teams we need to adapt our play, if only slightly.



    Im not going to slag off the players, some arent at that level (too old or too young) and some will never be.



    I really dont share P67’s view that Jozo will be in the stands next year, we struggled to get a decent CB in this year and now we’re looking at 2 new players for next year, and a right back, just cant see it happening.



    Result was not totally unexpected, im of a vintage that i only hope we dont concede in the first five minutes and at least get a shot on target in the 90 minutes.



    Goes without saying the Ref was abysmal.

  20. Big Georges Fan Club - Hail, Hail, Wee Oscar on

    SUPERSUTTON on 15TH FEBRUARY 2019 12:51 PM


    For what I saw, passing the ball around at the back wasn’t the cause of the two goals. Both goals were of the breakaway variety.




    Was about to post something similar – the passing from the back did not contribute to either of their goals. That tactic is a work in progress, and we are certainly getting better at it with Bain in goals.



    The scary back-pass by Broonie around 20-25 minutes, and the sloppy pass across the back by Boyata did, however, seem to unsettle the nerves for a long period.



    BOURNESOUPRECEIPIE – “…The transfer strategy and ‘the high press ‘ beat a Bundesliga side, in a worthy second in group placing and got us beyond Christmas in the Europa, all whilst being unbeaten trophy wise in Scotland…”



    Absolutely agree with that. Brendan is trying to move us into a position where were we can compete equally against teams in Europe – toe-to-toe – not back-to-the-walls tactics where we sometimes grab a heroic victory (and I know those tactics have had some success – I’ve been at those games and loved them).



    However, although it is painful when we lose, I think it is the right way to try to make more fundamental progress – I think it is the route to more consisten successes.



    I know possession isn’t everything by any means, but within that possession there were some signs of really good positive play – Jimmy Forrest, Edouard, Toljan, Sinclair at times. Persevere – I think we are moving in a positive for the long-term.







    Have faith folks :-))






  21. I hear lots of people moan about the predictable side to side and backwards passing.



    This is true… but why does it happen? Why was Callum McGregor so in-effective last night (gave ball away at 1st goal)



    Well, I may be wrong… but I have a theory.



    Chris Sutton was exactly correct in his comments last night. The problem being our striker position.



    A lot of our problems last night, start and end with Burke (that’s not to factor in poor individual displays from Izzy, Boyata and the likes). But fundamentally from a footballing perspective. McGregor and the likes get trapped in to playing square or playing back the way. Or even giving the ball away. They are trapped in to it… because fundamentally there is never a forward option on. There isn’t a target to hit.



    A centre forward, standing their ground, back to opposition goal. Willing to take the ball in, lay it off to the advanced midfield runners, like Christie etc.



    Therefore, for me, the poor games of Christie and McGregor can partially be attributed to not having that proper striker / target to build the play off of.

  22. Unfortunately, Izzy was a liability last night and KT is our best player.



    We could easily have managed a draw had the latter been playing.

  23. mullet and co 2 on

    Simunovic in the stand would mean two new centre backs by July.


    Boyata will go as will Bemkovic.


    Still think Sviatchenko was harshly treated when you consider Hendry Comper and Simunovic now continuing to play despite several mistakes.



    I would hazard a guess that we will court McKenna I the summer and start the qualifiers with Ajer and Simunovic. One or both will wind up injured and Bitton will play along with Hendry.



    Meanwhile we will try one or both Americans at full back.


    Bids for McGregor, Forrest and Lawwell will be trying desperately to get Sinclair and Ntcham of the wage bill.


    Steve Clarke – watch this space.

  24. On that note…. 2 guys that ran probably about 11km each, yet never effected the ball or the game in the slightest… Burke and Christie. Sometimes it isn’t effective to run about so much.



    Surely someone needs to address this from the coaching side. How can you have guys who run about to that degree, yet have zero, and I mean zero contact with the football



    ————– last 2 posts brought forward from old thread——————-

  25. Would we rather be absolutely pumped in the CL group stages and receive + £30 mill or be beaten in the EL and receive heehaw in comparison to the riches on offer in the CL group stages. If cash is king at Celtic then we should be looking to enhance our chances of reaching the CL group stages. Becoming increasingly difficult I know but if we fail to significantly improve the team we will most definitely not be pocketing the pot of gold on offer.

  26. We signed 8 players in January? I know we borrowed 3…. 3 others signed for next season… I signed but not in Euro squad…

  27. Just keen to expand on the football side of things.



    Last night I saw Toljan 2 or 3 times squeeze the ball up the line to Forrest. Inveriably Forrest is tightly marked. His only option is to move in field or ultimately recycle the ball back the way.



    As well as Forrest, I look at Christie, and this is an extension of the points above. To get the best out of these guys, they need to be facing the opposition goal.


    So to that end, the countless running that Christie does, trying to make himself available for a pass from our back 4, or Brown. He needs to work smarter. These guys, should be looking to come live in the 2nd phase.


    What I mean by that, is Christie shouldn’t be running about like a maddy, not getting on the ball. If we had a bonified centre forward, effective at hold up play. The source / platform of our play should stem from our number 9. Then when the ball is laid off to Christie, Forrest etc… these guys are driving forward and facing the opposition goal. Instantly becoming more of a threat.



    So until Brendan stops with the Burke experiment, we will continue to fall down. Particularly against any better sides.

  28. It was the same, playing Mikey Johnston as a striker at Ibrox. Doomed to fail from the off.



    Conor Goldson and his counterpart are not even better than mediocre. Yet they must of thought all their Christmas’s at come at once.



    I don’t know if anyone saw the Killie v Rangers cup game on Saturday?


    Even although, he’s a fat twat, when Kris Boyd entered the fray. Conor Goldson couldn’t handle him. It gave Killie a platform. Just old school strong No.9 target man play.



    It’s what we lack.


    The constant / common denominator in our negative results this season, is Brendan’s experimenting. Square pegs in round holes.

  29. I don’t think we’ll ever get a result against a top European team with BR in charge. He seems to think we can play with the same formation and tactics that we employ against SPFL teams. And that if we can blow St Johnstone away with “high-intensity” attacking football then we can do the same against a top Spanish team. I don’t expect it to change.

  30. 79CAPS – I agree wholeheartedly.



    WGS and Lenny got to the last 16 with pragmatic football.



    Plus, apart from the Barca 6 1 defeat and the blip against Artmedia, we weren’t embarrassed either.



    The playing out from the back frightens the life out of the supporters at this level.

  31. Looked like we have been saving all our errors up for the one game, lets hope we’ve spent them all. Seriously though we do seem nervous against better sides, even Broony last night was at it. Its amazing how quickly the odd bad pass spreads through the team.


    Feeling we will get a tough game against KIllie on Sunday. Steve Clark will have them at us from the start. HH.

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