Salzburg are the real deal. For years, backed by sponsor Red Bull, they have deployed one of the most expensive wage bills outside of Europe’s big five leagues. They are in the Europa League due to an away goals defeat to Red Star Belgrade (who drew their opening Champions League tie with Napoli), but the Austrians have won their six games since, scoring 21 goals in the process.
That run included a 2-3 win at Leipzig, one of only two defeats the Germans have suffered in 17 competitive games stretching back to April. They sit seven points clear at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga after a flawless nine wins from nine.
From a technical perspective, this will be a new challenge for Celtic this season. Our biggest problem, both domestically and at home, has been breaking down packed defences, Salzburg will have no such inhibitions. They attacked throughout in Leipzig, successfully chasing an 89th minute winner while most European teams on their travels would settle for a point.
I have been critical of how open Celtic were against Barcelona (7-0) and PSG (0-5, 7-1) in recent seasons. Whatever it is that St Mirren could conjure against Celtic last month, we were unable to find the same fortitude when facing a similar disparity in resources.
Salzburg are not Barcelona or PSG, but they will comfortably despatch any team who are defensively soft. We might not win, but we should aim to be competitive tomorrow night.