As Ronny Deila chose to leave first team players to their training duties, instead taking a fringe squad for Saturday’s friendly against St Pauli, Norwegian compatriot, Henning Berg, had a league game in Cracow, which Legia won comfortably.
Playing games is the best way to improve fitness but two games per week comes at a cost, fitness metrics are never as high ahead of the second game as they would be if pre-match preparation was a week long. With a day already lost to travel, Ronny clearly decided the players needed preparatory work for Warsaw more than the disruption caused by the pre-match-day preparation for St Pauli, the game itself, then post-match rest-day brought about by Saturday’s match.
Henning Berg rested most of his first team ahead of their second leg against St Pat’s (resulting in a home defeat in the league), and, perhaps mindful of not showing too much of his hand to Celtic, rested four players on Saturday. His team are also a couple of weeks’ training ahead of Celtic, which will be the major benefit Legia will hope to exploit.
While Celtic moaned about having to play three qualification rounds I’m sure Ronny will be happy he saw his team in competitive action against KR ahead of tonight’s game. There was enough about the first half in Iceland two weeks ago to remind him that an edge is needed, and it is not straightforward to find, even against such lowly opposition.
While Celtic progressed to the group stage in each of the last two seasons, the corresponding fixture to tonight caused some concern on both occasions. HJK Helsinki were eventually overcome 2-1 after taking a lead at Celtic Park two years ago, while we took an equally narrow 1-0 to Elfsborg last season. Celtic would go on to produce memorable and record breaking seasons, but the preparation gradient has proven to be steep.
Celtic’s major advantage could, conversely, be the partisan home crowd, who are sure to be switched on from kick off, but Berg’s team have not won any of their three home games this season. The natives are getting restless and could easily become frustrated, increasing the tension already evident on Legia. The first goal could be crucial.
No passengers tonight, Celtic, especially late in the game, when limbs tire.[calameo code=000390171ae033f39a0c4 lang=en page=120 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]