2012 is a recent high watermark for Celtic and AIK in European football. Celtic collected 10 points in the Champions League group stage that season, while that was the first and last time AIK reach the group stage of the Europa League; they finished bottom with four points. Today will see the Swedes compete in a playoff round for the first time since then, so this is nosebleed territory for tonight’s visitors.
Their most impressive result this season was a 1-2 win in Moldova against Sheriff. An early own-goal was enough to give them the edge for an aggregate win. They travel without suspended top scorer Tarik Elyounoussi, who handed Neil Lennon his pre-match team talk by telling the media “When you hear the name Celtic, you think they are a big team. But they lost four goals at home to Cluj and the Scottish league is not so good.”
It is helpful to hear a bit of disrespect from opponents before a game. I trust we will reserve comment on the standard of the Swedish league until after this tie.
There will be plenty of hurt in the Celtic dressing room before kick-off tonight. Hurt that three times they let Cluj back into the last tie and the manner of some of the defending. Hurt too, at what has been said and written since. Defeat is not a pleasant business at Celtic.
What matters is whether the manager and players can use this pain as fuel to destroy AIK at Celtic Park tonight. We will know soon enough.