First Leg Score
Sarajevo 1 (Oremus)
Celtic 3 (Johnston, Edouard, Sinclair)
They say that seven days is a long time in football, but unless I’ve totally missed something, it’s been fairly quiet in the world of Celtic since the Sarajevo game. No new signings and, so far, no new departures at Celtic Park despite the interest from Arsenal in Kieran Tierney. For many fans, though, it’s time to get excited for the return of competitive action at Celtic Park. Anyone who was at the Stade Rennes game on Saturday will agree it was simply nothing more than a training exercise for a lot of the players.
Christopher Jullien got his first run-out in a Celtic jersey and grew into the game, looking assured before being replaced by Kris Ajer. With this European tie effectively over, Jullien could make his competitive debut alongside the man who replaced him on Saturday in the heart of the defence. Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo should recover from the slight knock he took over in Serbia to make his Celtic Park debut (unless you count his Paradise Windfall draw appearance on Saturday). Anthony Ralston continues to take up the right-back position due to the lack of signings and, with Celtic expecting to dominate possession at home, he will most likely be given the chance to impress after Ajer deputised there in the first leg.
Lewis Morgan will consider himself unlucky if he doesn’t get the nod on Wednesday night ahead of Scott Sinclair, but I can see Lennon going with the experience to get an early goal and kill off any chance of a potential upset. Morgan has been extremely impressive in pre-season and his substitute performance in Serbia, setting up Sinclair for the third goal, was certainly a highlight of the game. On Saturday, Morgan showed glimpses of what he can do despite finding himself in the right-midfield position, taking on Rennes players for fun, winning the Man of the Match award in the process. Morgan should get a run out from the bench if he doesn’t start and will be looking to maintain his recent impressive form.
Speaking of players who might be disappointed not to start, Leigh Griffiths is getting back to the match sharpness that made him a real fans’ favourite before his personal issues led to his break from football earlier in the year. Griffiths constantly looked like a thorn in the Rennes defence, looking to latch on to through balls and use his pace to get in behind. Griffiths’ pre-season form has certainly been impressive with goals against Pinkafeld, Weiner and St Gallen under-21s showing that he certainly hasn’t lost his goalscoring instincts.
As for Wednesday’s opponents FK Sarajevo, their players head to Scotland still with the belief that they can get something from the tie. Unlike Celtic, Sarajevo had the weekend off before travelling on Monday to Scotland to prepare for the game. After the match on Tuesday, some of their players, including goalkeeper Vladan Kovacevic, were vocal about how “lucky” Celtic were to come away with a 3-1 victory. This belief was shared by defender Besim Serbecic who also would have warmed himself to the other half of the city with his comments to the media after the tie when he said, “Of course it will be very difficult for us at Celtic, but you never know what can happen in football. We will certainly not surrender.”
Celtic will need to be wary and, as highlighted before the first leg, Sarajevo do have some players that can cause them trouble. Top goalscorer – Mersudin Ahmetović – had a fairly quiet game but still looked lively, and a slip of concentration from the Celtic defence could give the Bosnian his chance to make a name for himself. Goalscorer Mirko Oremus was someone that I highlighted in the profile before the first leg and he will once again be a threat to Celtic down that right-hand side, up against Bolingoli-Mbombo or Hayes. Sarajevo need to score at least three times in Glasgow and will most likely come out all guns blazing looking to get that important first goal on the night.
With that in mind, Celtic should look to exploit the counter attack and James Forrest could be a key player on Wednesday night, using his pace and skill to connect with Mikey Johnston and Odsonne Edouard. If Celtic get the first goal, the tie is over and we should see them stroll to a victory by a few goals. If that is indeed the case, it would be great to see the European debut of Karamoko Dembele as he continues to integrate himself into the first-team squad.
All in all, it should be another great night under the sunshine at Celtic Park and one I am very much looking forward to. Remember the game is included within your 2019/20 season ticket and limited remaining tickets are still available online. Hopefully this should be close to a full house on Wednesday night as the Bhoys complete the first step in our race to the Champions League group stage.
Projected Celtic XI
Ralston, Ajer, Jullien, Bolingoli-Mbombo;
Forrest, Johnston, Sinclair;
Colin WattListen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast