Sarajevo started this season’s European campaign with a Champions League qualifying win in Wales over Connah’s Quay Nomads (CQN…), before losing in Belorussia to Dynamo Brest. They then eliminated Montenegrins Buducnost Podgorica from Europa qualification, a result that allowed them to progress to tonight’s playoff game against Celtic.
Last season we beat them home and away in Champions League qualification and they left the Europa in the next round at the hands of BATE Borisov. This is not a team with European pedigree.
You and I both know none of that matters come kick off, we have seen Celtic eliminated from Europe by far weaker teams too many times in the last decade to allow the lack of merit an opponent possesses to reassure us.
Sarajevo will have studied two templates, how Ferencvaros won at Celtic Park and how Riga took us to the 90th minute (they could also check games against Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Dundee United). Their game plan will inevitably follow the same pattern of defending deep and hoping to snatch something on the counter.
I expect a Celtic win. Jeremie Frimpong will play and Sarajevo will double up on him, which might not be enough to inhibit the wingback, but it will allow us more freedom on the left, an increasing feature of our season.
It is great to have Christopher Jullien back in the squad. He will inevitably replace Nir Bitton, but I am not sure of the wisdom of throwing him in tonight. We have suffered from a lack of consistency at the back. Neil Lennon will have to choose between keeping a consistent defence for tonight, or setting down the template he will hope to deploy in crucial games later this month. For me, the next game is always the priority.