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Vanity tactics

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Efe Ambrose looked a tad nervous at the start of last night’s game.  He wasn’t the only one.   Adam Matthews was pressed into an early return from injury, a forced change, but Celtic’s decision to deploy a more adventurous line-up than in previous encounters with Barcelona was by choice.

The result was 36% possession, heady heights compared to last season’s win and narrow defeat, but oh what a price.  When Barca went 4-0 up early in the second half I suggested “This could be our record defeat”.  My Dad said “Artmedia was only one more than this”.  I meant THE record defeat, not the record European defeat.  We were a few bounces of the ball away.

Results like this are always possible at this level if the game plan is wrong.  In the minutes before kick off on Champions League nights, when the stomach knots with tension, I tell myself there is no shame in defeat, but “let’s make sure it’s not 3-0 again”.  This must always be the priority.  There seems to be a couple of rules:

If we defend the 18 yard line, in numbers, we have a chance of winning Champions League games, but beauty will very much be in the eye of the beholder.

If we chase vanity marks, as we did at home to Juventus and Milan, and away to Barcelona, we’ll lose heavily.

Last season’s Champions League campaign was a textbook lesson on how pot 4 teams from weak leagues should tackle the tournament.  Spartak Moscow had more possession at Celtic Park than Barcelona had at the Camp Nou last night, but Celtic won both games against the Russians. There is a shout out loud lesson here.

Between now and the beginning of the next European campaign we have a great opportunity to build upon the type of football we saw in the last two domestic games.  If we do this well, we can prepare for next season with a more mature model, but venues like the Camp Nou should only see our bedrock tactics for the foreseeable future.

The Celtic Graves Society are commemorating the life of Peter Scarff, who died of TB 80 years ago this week at the age of 25. Peter, a teammate of John Thomson and Jimmy McGrory, scored 54 goals in 112 games for Celtic before contracting his fatal illness at 23. A short service will be held at Peter’s grave in Kilbarchan Cemetery at 11:30 this Saturday, 14 December. You are all welcome.

There’s a Celtic shirt signed by the first team squad available for auction on ebay in aid of the Wellburn Care Home in Dundee, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. It’s currently going for a song, so get there and fill your boots.

“The centre of Astana very much had a western feel- vibrant, affluent with a splattering of large video screens on the buildings advertising top of the range cars to luxury apartments. With skyscraper office blocks and top-end hotels with marble kerbstones, this very much is one side of Asia.

“The stadium itself looked fairly new, the shape of it reminded me of Tyncastle, thankfully we were made welcome here though!”

From a trip to Kazakhstan page 136 of the 2014 CQN Annual, available here:

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Sean Fallon, Celtic’s Iron Man:

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