Two honourable defeats, away to Milan and at home to Barcelona, confirm that Celtic can compete at this level, but the two points which only just eluded us could prove crucial in determining qualification for the knock out stage. Barcelona and Milan are in the driving seat.
Two home wins, against Ajax and Milan, could change all this. If Celtic can achieve this, Ajax could still be on four points after playing (and beating) Celtic in Amsterdam, but will be odds against to reach six points with a visit to Milan and a home game against Barcelona to come. Milan bloodied Barcelona’s nose last season, but are not certain to take anything against the Catalans this time, although the outrageous decision which gifted them a draw last night suggests we cannot take anything for granted.
It’s possible that Milan could finish with seven points, which is not an unsurmountable target for Celtic. For now, we can ignore all the ‘what ifs’, the only thing that matters is facing Ajax at Celtic Park in three weeks. This is our cup final.
It has been said repeatedly since last night, but deserves repetition, Georgios Samaras’ performance was nothing short of incredible and stands comparison with any individual Celtic performance in Europe over the last 20 years.
Efe Ambrose and Virgil van Dijk looked more every bit as secure as Efe and Kelvin a year ago. Efe can be particularly pleased with the way he recovered his form after shading last season.
Some months ago I heard a numpty on Radio 5 Live describe Fraser Forster as a ‘Match of the Day goalkeeper’, the implication being that he was more show than substance. Yet again Fraser demonstrated that he is by far the best goalkeeper in Britain. I couldn’t care less who in England is aware of this fact. I hear he released Neymar from his pocket late last night.
Adam Matthews and Mikal Lustig are a terrific right-side partnership but from the opening seconds they were taxed to the limit last night. The more they play at this level the better they’ll get.
Despite deserving more from Milan last night Ajax are in a state of flux at the moment. They will not travel to Glasgow with anything approaching confidence but it will still require out best performance of the season to overcome them.
Bring it on.
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