What were Champions League lessons?


Photo: Vagelis Georgariou biglens.co.uk

We’ve often discussed that the difference between success and failure at Champions League level more often than comes down to which team makes mistakes.  In the group stages Celtic were 31st out of 32 teams for the amount of possession they had, and for the number of chances they created, but they were immaculately drilled and progressed while more creative teams failed.

Cluj had less possession and chances than Celtic but also know the route to effective football, finishing on 10 points and being denied qualification for the knock out stage on goal difference.

Against Juventus, home and away, things changed.  Defenders twice jumped for balls they couldn’t reach, instead of turning and standing their ground.  Twice players were dispossessed inside their own half instead of getting rid of the ball early.  These moments led to four of Juventus’ five goals and decided the tie.  By contrast, Celtic enjoyed the bulk of possession and chances, home and away, against the Italian champions.

What are the lessons have been learned in our Champions League games?

Xavi has learned not to try to control a clearance from Fraser Forster at chest height.  Spartak’s Insaurralde will know to keep his eye on the ball while clearing the ball when last man while Suchy will know not to clatter into strikers inside his own box.

No Celtic player made a single mistake inside his own half in either of the home games against Barcelona and Spartak and as a result, both games were won.

Our players’ normal mode of play, week-in-week-out, is the intercept passes, not cautiously move to a covering position.  They also hold onto the ball and take a moment before releasing, activities which don’t often lead to a goal being conceded within seconds, but Champions League football is stunningly different than the domestic variety.

The most important lesson from our Champions League campaign is that Celtic are one of the most effective teams in Europe.  We can create goals and defend successfully against the best on the Continent.  We will look back on this campaign as the one which put us back on the map, and we’ll look back on the Juventus games as an important stage in our development.

The strategy is working; same again please.

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  1. excathedra44 on



    13:29 on


    7 March, 2013


    excathedra44 13:23 on 7 March, 2013





    13:29 on


    7 March, 2013



    Tiger Tim,


    Our record of injuries is unacceptable,it can be improved but no details on an open forum.Pirlo seemed to last OK on the slippy pitch.






    I did not suggest Scotts departure was unacceptable,it was deserved,however our injury list was less evident in that era.



    Not sure your comments are correct re Paul McStay however its your opinion.



    Players fitter?? better looked after Yes,resultant output considering these factors not high enough.

  2. TerryONeill Neil ah love yae on

    FIFA have launched a Whistleblower Website .



    I hope Celtic are one of the first to make use of it after sandy bryson’s alice in wonderland version of registration status.



    The new site will enable anonymous if you want to be anoymous, complaints to be made and lead ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia said the following



    “My staff will see the complaints without filter from FIFA”



    Its all part of setting legal and ethical standards.



    The following excerpt caught my eye



    FIFA’s jurisdiction



    “encompasses misconduct that would ordinarily be addressed by a confederation or association,but under the particular facts at issue,has not been or is unlikely to be dealt with appropriately at that level”



    FIFA Whistleblower

  3. Philbhoy - It's just the beginning! on

    Has Steven Pressley left Falkirk for Coventry?



    If so, I wish him well.



    A decent bloke.

  4. The frustrating thing about the Juve tie is that we will never really know whether our starting tactics were correct. The moment we gave away a daft goal they sat back and were always more likely on the counterattack – and so it proved.



    They are possibly the best defensive side in europe having conceded fewer goals than anyone in any league. We had the ball but kept passing across their back 8 then putting a cross in from Izzy. I’m not sure if we lack real guile and quality upfront or they are just supremely good at defending? In the first game we got behind their full backs but not last night.



    That said we had several chances that we did not take. Our shooting was very very poor (Commons in particular was way off form), our headers were into the ground or straight at Buffon.



    …overall I reckon Juve could go all the way defending and score the odd goal on the break. they certainly wont be tanked by anyone. Us – we’ve scored plenty of goals this CL but I still hanker after a crafty striker and the old Kris Commons that can hit a barn door (or similar).

  5. TerryONeill Neil ah love yae on

    Thanks kevjungle 13.35 much appreciated.



    Aye mcurry wers he this weather .

  6. TerryONeill



    “This portal offers an opportunity for employees, persons bound by the FIFA Code of Ethics, and others to notify FIFA of potential violations.”

  7. excathedra




    For me ‘paul mcstay’ was ran into the ground by the celtic coaches and physio..his retirement through his long standing ankle injury seemed [to me] to be a result of many years of neglect and possibly playing through pain killing injections..of course i have no proof.paul mcstay has hardly uttered a word about his playing career since retirement and very surprisingly hasnt even done an ‘autobiography’…[lesser players have released more than one]…….just a theory i know,but paul mcstay could have played football untill his late 30’s such was his skill level and game inteligence…I believe we [and paul] where robbed of his ‘sweeper'[age 32-37] years due to pressure to get him fit for big games.

  8. ArranmoreBhoyLXV11 on




    What a euro campaign – delighted…so many memories…all good except, Barca last kick winner and poor away loss to Benfica( though being there compensated)..



    Lenny FANTASTIC post match and looked very dapper for Italy.



    The MSM will now try and talk everyone and the pigeons out of paradise…



    Brilliant Celtic..



    Lessons learned..




  9. Ntassoola



    What about Lubo AND Roy Keane in the same midfield?!



    A kind of ‘beauty and the beast’ combination!




  10. Why do our wingers/fullbacks NEVER hit the bye line?


    Why do we always play an early cross?

  11. ArranmoreBhoyLXV11 on




    oh and as regards the injuries to hamstrings…. Many swear by Yoga.. The Bhoys should get some sessions…from one of those bendy people..

  12. God there must be something wrong with me this my second post of the day.



    With regard to the lack of praise given to our very young and talented players and coaching staff by the MSN I find the BBC radio with the exception of the hurting like F Chico and McIntyre not too bad the rest can GTH.



    As I have lived and made my living in Suffolk for the last 25 years of so I will always listen to proper journalists like Oliver Holt and his ilk. These journalists like the rest of English fans have mocked scottish football as pub team leagues for years however they have been made to take notice of the Celts in Europe through we Gordon and now NFL who they think very highly of.



    We shall overcome some day.

  13. South Of Tunis on

    oglach @ 13 40.



    ” The chants and insults which blight too many games in Serie A ”



    Indeed .



    There was violence before and after last Friday’s Napoli v Juve game . A TV reporter reported on the Juve team bus being pelted with rocks by Napoli Ultras . The reporter was standing outside Napoli’s stadium —– the wall behind him featured this graffito ——————GRAZIE LIVERPOOL .



    It has been there for years.

  14. ArranmoreBhoy



    I do believe that CFC actually have a ‘bendy’ yoga instuctress!



    Cant remember who she is.




  15. actually the achorman on bbc radio scotland ‘richard gordan’ is a very fair and balanced sort..the way in which he was remembering the barca game at parkhead last night was spoken with honesty and balance…the rest are a bunch of gimps..even murdo at times

  16. timmy7_noted on

    Very,very proud of my team last night,I really enjoyed the game and thought we played very well.A little luck and we could have won the tie.However the Italians did give us a lesson on concentration and pragmatic approach to the game.I think we were done for as soon as Efe made his first error in the first leg,giving them an early lead just killed us tactically.



    NFL,fantastic,delighted he is our manager and hope he will be for years.



    I watched the game in Heraghtys last night and was really annoyed with the negativity of some of the clientele,in particular to Charlie and Sammy,talking bollocks in my opinion.



    A truly great CL for us and I can’t wait till it all starts again,unlike some posters I am first and foremost a Celtic supporter who will renew his season ticket once again for over 25 years in a row.I don’t need crap stories from MSM,mad spending sprees or a fascination with the huns to make up my mind,almost 50 years of being a fan makes the decision an inevitability.



    For those constantly threatening not to renew or those who have already gone down that path enjoy your coverage on Sky I’m going Celtic Park.

  17. excathedra44 on



    13:55 on


    7 March, 2013



    Thanks for reply.


    I agree that his retiral was a great loss, whether it was down to mis-management of his treatment I dont know.

  18. cliftonville celt from belfast on

    Ah well so that’s the proper football over until July then !!!!!!


    Back to the lying cheating SPHell again



    Think the only player we will lose in the summer is big Frazer who is a shoe in for Barca (how could we stand in his way) but we will be well compensated for him which means we don’t NEED to sell anyone else and could maybe boost contracts a little to keep the others another year or two.



    We are definately carrying way too much dead weight and need to start using the younger players more otherwise whats the point of investing so much in them. Give the younger players some more role models and first teams players who have come through the system to look up to. Too much time and money being spent on bringing players in on loan deals etc when all they are doing is stopping the younger kids getting a chance. The kids coming through the system know all about the Celtic way and want to play for the club and will stay for longer. Understand we need to take a punt and bring some players in ie Vic, Efe etc but our first priority should always be to nurture our own players & when we can do this and put out a team with 5 or 6 who have come through then and only then will be able to truely compete at the top table.



    Rant over off back to work now before I get caught !!!!!!




  19. Some poignant observations there, Paul.




    And so it ends. Like all the great theme-park rides we slowed to a halt at the departure point last night before stepping off with big smiles on our faces.



    In the main, over the past two years, culminating in this season’s CL campaign, we have learned that a method of operation previously untried in such thorough fashion from top to bottom at Celtic WORKS.



    This method of calculated frugality and ‘Moneyball’ percentage-playing has induced much discussion on this blog alone, a lot of that heated and caustic towards the Celtic board and Lenny himself, his head shamefully called for only 18 months ago and his capabilities frequently still brought into question.



    I think people need to re-asses their opinions. We have just reached the last 16 of the world’s premier club competition with a squad of relative unknowns plucked from obscurity and blended together by the hardest of coaching work and intense deliberation.



    Regardless of your own particular bones of contention, be it media handling, tactical foibles, expenditure, the bigger picture is that as a singularity, Glasgow Celtic has been put very much on the European map once more with a solid foundation for future progress.



    We as fans are very much a part of that picture and shouldn’t forget it. But sometimes we need to check our knee-jerk reactions and trust in the people who are steering the ship.


    They’ve certainly taken us out into deep waters among the sharks this season and though there’s been plenty of trepidation, we all surely have to concede the fishing’s been terrific and some of the big fish caught, huge.



    Thanks, Hoops, and same again for the rest of 2013.

  20. One thing I noticed over the two legs was that Juve would give the Celtic players 10 yards of space when we had possession. They were able to see what passes were going to be made and closed the man down just as the ball reached him.

  21. If Hearts were to go bust or go into admin, would the SPL ask for teams to apply to join?


    Could we have a “Club 12” again this year?


    Wonder which clubs would apply?


    Partick, Morton, maybe even Livingston, anybody think of any other teams which might apply?????

  22. It is heartwarming to read all the glowing testaments to our club and fans following our CL campaign.



    We have had to travel far for such appreciation.



    For me, the finest tribute came before last night’s game, from or old friend, Jose.






    Three words, or two, even, that say it all.



    There must be a banner in there, surely.

  23. i agree ‘sandman’



    good call.




    infact we might have a blip and dont qualify for the champs league next season..it is then that we have to keep faith.I believe under lennon we will reach the group stages more often than not…..that stat alone will do for me.

  24. TerryONeill Neil ah love yae on

    barrach obampot@13.54



    Aye ah did notice that,



    Last week was a slap in the face of fairness.



    I felt that I didn’t matter and didn’t have the means to do anything about it.



    I want every fan who is sickened by the sneer to fill this in.



    Celtic should fill it in.

  25. Compared to Clyde, Sportsound is like listening to a balanced and reasoned debate amongst Mensa members. Don’t agree with a lot that’s said but other than a few (McIntyre being the worst) can’t say I find them particularly biased one way or the other. Gordon is good anchor man, Young is the village idiot but the likes of English, Cosgrove, Spiers are at least intelligent enough to put together a coherent sentence.

  26. Richard Gordon is a good presenter for BBC Scotii.



    Murdo is too afraid to lose his cushy number and if he feels he has praised Celtic too much the previous week he’ll stick the boot in the following week. He’s an uncle Tom type character.



    The reason they don’t have Peter Grant or Macca or any of these Celt’s on as they would call a spade a spade and the Sevcoites would be screaming blue murder.



    All McLeod does is faff around mumbling under his breath when he has something contentious to say. He should s**t in the pot or get off it.

  27. Year on year I watch John Clark in the dug out and wonder what the man thinks of each successive Celtic team that crosses the line for each game.



    As we wax lyrical about NFL and the team he has built it is sobering to think that this celtic team are only just beginning to touch the outer edges of the universe in which he played along with the other Lions.


    There is a considerable distance still to travel I think.



    There was a time when Juventus, AC/Inter, Real et all were genuinely apprehensive at the thought of a Wednesday night match in Glasgow.


    We are not there yet but I think John Clark will be a happier man this season than for many of the previous seasons.



    Our name is on that cup, we have a right to be here and people like John Clark put us there.

  28. watching ‘question of sport’ last night and cheeky chappy ally mcoist has certainly aged..looking more like sir walt with every day that passes………john parrot owned him on the ‘home and away’ section…….”do you actually have any questions on scottish 3rd dv football’??he asked ‘sue barker ‘ when it was mcoists turn to go

  29. Sandman



    Re those calling for Lenny’s dismissal 18 months ago – I might have thought with 20 mins to go at Rugby Park but never said it here or elsewhere. However I would also add I heard several in section 107 telling those around them that our manager was hopeless the night we beat Barcelona. When we were already winning.




    Am away out for cake





  30. jude2005 is Neil Lennon \o/ on

    Emdae hear the Kaye radio show on radio Scotland this morning at 10? Was abt fan harassment. Barry questioned A S Bernard Higgins abt Celtic fans being filmed and fan being arrested at the airport. He got a waffle answer. Was a good listen tho!!

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