While Maribor were clearly second best at home to Celtic last week they remain a potent threat to our season. You can be sure they’ve watched every minute of every game Celtic have played this season and will have dissected each defensive lapse. Our acknowledged weaknesses – primarily a defence which has yet to find cohesion – will be well-known to each of them.
The vast acreage of Celtic Park should suit the mobile, pressing, game Ronny Deila has brought to our play. It will be difficult for Maribor to cover all defensive zones, so with Celtic certain to play without a target-man, I expect the visitors to concede territory on the wings, defend their penalty area and force Celtic to play through them.
We will inevitably leave space at the back, in particular down the wings. How attentive we deal with this risk could determine the outcome of the tie.
Maribor’s schedule since facing Celtic on Wednesday suggests their biggest challenge will be to maintain energy levels late in the game. Thursday will have been a rest day, only light training would have taken place Friday and the bulk of the first team had a league game on Saturday evening. Yesterday would be another rest day, and they will travel today before a light job on Celtic Park this evening.
By contrast, the bulk of those who will start for Celtic tomorrow will have had normal preparatory training Friday, Saturday, Sunday, with some light work tomorrow. Those who made substitute appearances on Saturday will not have made a significant debit on energy levels.
We need to keep the ball moving early on, curtail rest times and have Maribor accessing their reserve tanks as early as possible.[calameo code=000390171586f6fbaa2ba lang=en page=122 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]