I’ve been trying to interpret the Champions League group all evening. It’s an exciting draw. The world’s biggest box office team will come to Glasgow, a chance for us to marvel at, and test ourselves against, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and the rest. We also have a sporting chance of finishing second or third, either of which would be acceptable.
For me most of this analysis is irrelevant for now. The two most important games are the first, Benfica, and the last Spartak Moscow, both at home, so for now, all that really matters is the 90 minutes at Celtic Park against Benfica on 19 September. Beat Benfica and you go to Moscow in the following game with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Can we beat Benfica at Celtic Park? Benfica have lost all three games they have played at Celtic Park, twice in recent Champions League history, but they are not a pot two team and we are not a pot four team for nothing. They have played only two league games this season and did not benefit from being tested by a Champions League qualifying competition.
In short, playing Benfica in the first game, when we will have played twice as many competitive games as they have, is ideal. We will be ready for them.
Tomorrow is a big day. Who was it said ‘perfect day to bury bad news’? While some of us are busy trying to keep a server online as transfer speculation reaches its annual crescendo, what chance last year’s accounts will be released?
If they are (and I have no information on this), you can count on some very bad news. Losses will be frightening, which sheds some light on some of the earthy tones from Neil Lennon today on just how big a result the win over Helsingborgs was.
We needed that win. We needed Messi and his pals to help us sell 60,000 ticket packages, and to prompt Celtic fans to go out and buy some of the many thousands of season tickets still available.
Let me leave you with a word that came out from the Spartak camp tonight. Andrey Tikhonov, Spartak player until he became a coach at the club last year, said, “Barcelona are favourites from the group. We and Benfica will be fighting for second place.
“Celtic are outsiders. The Champions League competition is about very good technical football. It has nothing to do with running after the ball that somebody kicked forward.”
Beat these clowns, Celtic.