Champions League lessons from Turin


For years we’ve analysed Celtic performances, wins and losses, in the rarefied Champions League environment with a recurring theme: more often than not at this level, mistakes, not great play, determines the outcome.

Last night’s top match, Juventus v Real Madrid, was no different.  Real lost two goals, one from a penalty after a reckless challenge inside the box by Varane, another when the same player turned his back on the ball to watch Llorente, instead of attacking a 40 yard cross.  The worst mistake came from Juventus.  Instead of clearing the ball long, a defender put teammate Caceres under pressure, who could have put his laces through the ball and conceded possession 50 yards downfield, but chose to attempted to reach his keeper with a back-pass, which found Christiano Ronaldo instead.

The ‘schoolboy error’ metaphor is way overused in the game, but is never more apt than when watching the Champions League. Perhaps a bountiful source of individuals with rock-solid Superiority Complexes.

These are two of the most professional teams in the game.  Their market knowledge, sports science, mental strength and tactical awareness will be as good as anyone in the game, but still this result was determined by a wayward and pointless back-pass, an equally pointless penalty box lunge and forgetting that crosses into the box take priority over watching your man.

Celtic know this well.  We make fewer mistakes in Champions League games than we do in domestic football, while our recent wins benefited from opposition mistakes (penalty against Ajax, penalty against Spartak, Xavi kung-fu kick missing the ball, Spartak player red carded).  Scott Brown’s off the ball indiscretion, which cost us a point, and Nir Biton’s ‘challenge’ are notable exceptions.

Ajax think they are the better team – which gives Celtic a great advantage.  They think they can overwhelm us tonight, that they failed to make the most of their chances at Celtic Park and that we benefited from a couple of fortunate moments.  This is a reasonable assessment based on last month’s game but know better as we’ve been watching re-runs of this script for years.  Celtic’s win had nothing to do with fortune or missed chances, it came about as planned – deny the opposition space in dangerous areas, clear your lines and exploit their mistakes.

The Champions League is not about your best 89 minutes play, it’s about your worst minute, just ask a few sore-feeling footballers in Turin this morning.  If Celtic avoid unenforced errors and wait patiently to exploit those a self-assured Ajax will make (no one does self-assured like Dutch footballers), they have nothing to fear.  Keep 11 players on the field, don’t give away penalties (evidence elsewhere last night suggests unscrupulous players dive inside the box) or free kicks around the box, block shots from outside the box, and most of all…. clear your lines.

Do this, and our clever players will ensure that the result will take care of itself.
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  1. In the starting eleven. Let them come at us Celtic and Sammi and wee Jaimie to hit them on the break. Tactics sorted!

  2. cmon the celts 2-0what a birthday im going to have pub soon then 3 points later to celebrate HAIL HAIL

  3. Dontbrattbakkinanger on

    THe Champions League lesson fromTurin is if there’s 80 minutes on the clock and we are level then play out the time; boot the ball into the nearest canal.

  4. Dontbrattbakkinanger on

    …of course if we are awarded a penalty in the 83rd minute the above advice may no longer be moot.

  5. Paul67,



    I watched that Juve v Real game last night. Could not believe the errors that players of that standard were committing. Yesh for shure, there was some excellent play from them as you’d expect, but those mistakes were indeed of a schoolboy calibre.



    And exceedingly costly at that.



    Keep the mistakes to a minimum, defend like demons, keep the ball well when we have it and most importantly, hurt them when we get the chance(s)!



    Thats should see the 3 points coming back to Celtic Park.






  6. This is the day;



    It’s fate.




    November 6, 1887




    Celtic Football Club is formally constituted in St Mary’s Church Hall in East Rose Street (now Forbes Street), Calton. The purpose is stated as being to alleviate poverty in Glasgow’s East End parishes




    126 years later Celtic celebrated their first ever away victory in the group stages of the Champions League?

  7. twists n turns cheers all i want is 3 points & a good performance & of course to be sober enough to see the game

  8. Alasdair MacLean on

    Checking the odds and came across this wee stat:



    “Never before have Ajax failed to win in their first three fixtures of the competition.”

  9. Livibhoy



    Indeed it was, I do apologise. I think I confused myself thinking about us never having kept a clean sheet away in the group stages. You are correct. Humble apologies!!

  10. KevJungle – 11:54 (previous article)




    “Just in to say….



    Reasons why the Celtic ‘bored’ should be sacked. imo”




    I recall you did a pretty good job of “shafting” NL yourself recently on here, even stooping to cheerleading for your pal Terry Butcher to be given his job.



    You’re the one who should be sacked. imo.

  11. Hi Paul67,



    Good Synopsis…



    “Do this, and our clever players will ensure that the result will take care of itself.



    Hope you are correct, I’m sure the defence can keep it tight, same with central mid – rushes of blood to the head apart – but can we take advantage of their mistakes/our chances?



    Still for some reason we do this better in the UCL than the SPL.



    So quietly confident.



    Hail Hail

  12. LiviBhoy - God bless wee Oscar on

    twists n turns



    No apology required. We waited long enough for it. I will never forget it.




  13. Working in Holland this week, on my way to Amsterdam for the match later.


    Anybody know the ticket situation up there? Are there spares available?



    Hail Hail

  14. The Battered Bunnet on

    Assuming Commons and Sammi are fit to start as Lenny suggests, then they will.



    Back 4 picks itself.



    Sammi and Forrest in the wider areas, Commons ahead of a sitting pair drawn from Mulgrew, Ledley and Kayal.



    Reckon it’ll be Mulgrew and Kayal.



    Only quandary is the point man. Stokes doesn’t tend to show up against better opponents while Pukki has yet to show up at all, and Balde is perhaps a little raw yet.



    Whoever gets the nod has a chance to shine. Let’s hope he takes it.

  15. The Battered Bunnet


    12:37 on


    6 November, 2013



    I think’ll be Stokes, on the basis that he showed in the last game he can put a lot of energy into his game (perhaps due to the presence of Pukki in the squad threatening his place), allied to the fact that he’s been finding the net, which Pukki hasn’t really done yet.

  16. 67Heaven ... I am Neil Lennon, supporting WEE OSCAR..!!.. Ibrox belongs to the creditors on

    blooter it!



    12:25 on 6 November, 2013



    Not the full shilling, and oor Kev springs to mind……LOL

  17. I think one of the main achievements of Neil’s managerial reign is that we have confidence we will play well, not necessarily win but not get shown up.

  18. Greenwells Glory on

    Hi Ghuys, Salve salve;-


    First up, keep yourselves safe, look after the ghirls and the weans. Enhance your hard earned reputation for sportsmanship and good behaviour.


    I hope for a great game tonight and as ever that our players will be brave and clinical.


    I hope everyone returns safely to their family.




    Mea anima est cum te. Nostra animae sunt cum vobis.

  19. 67Heaven ... I am Neil Lennon, supporting WEE OSCAR..!!.. Ibrox belongs to the creditors on




    12:39 on 6 November, 2013



    Did you decide to have a wee snooze..?

  20. 67Heaven ... I am Neil Lennon, supporting WEE OSCAR..!!.. Ibrox belongs to the creditors on




    12:40 on 6 November, 2013



    Welcome back……hahahahahahaha

  21. minx1888 praying for Wee Oscar on

    asonofdan – Prayers offered up for your Dad



    Boaby – Happy Birthday I hope you get 3 points as a present!



    Hope all the Bhoys and Ghirls have a great time in the Dam and stay safe, should be working but watching the live feed of the square!