Atletico Madrid arrive at Celtic Park tomorrow on the back of six consecutive wins, a series which started by beating Real in the Madrid derby, and ended with a 0-3 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday. If they win their game in hand over the teams above them, they will go top of La Liga. Even by their impressive standards, that is formidable form.
Looking ahead to the game, Brendan Rodgers spoke about the challenge of playing one of the best teams in the world and the need to devise a plan. The wounds of PSG’s visit to Glasgow the last time Brendan was in charge are still there. Celtic battled but the visitors left with a 0-5 win, it was a lesson on what can happen when you don’t sufficiently change the plan you had for the previous weekend’s Scottish Premiership game.
“Dominate domestic football and to compete regularly in the Champions League”, objectives Celtic chief executive Michael Nicholson noted in our annual report, published yesterday. I see comments alleging one is regarded as more important than the other to the club, when it should be patently obvious that gaining either makes achieving the other significantly easier. Do both or do neither.
There is a world of ways you can go about achieving those objectives, from the David Murray route (spend everything you have, and more, and take tax advice from a porn producer), to just spending everything you have and hoping to always achieve both, to trying to manage though the slings and arrows of football.
We all have a preference but there is no perfect plan for this, although there are clearly some disastrous ones. Under the current strategy, I think Celtic will continue to dominate domestically for years to come. We will win the league and gain entry into the new-format Champions League next season. Thereafter, we can expect the qualification lottery for some seasons, inevitably including some Europa League seasons. Still, remember when we all wanted to be like Ajax? Football strategy is easy, just ask anyone who has never had to execute.