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It has been a disappointing few years in the Champions League wilderness for Celtic since their last appearance in the group stages in 2017 and they face a difficult task against a FC Midtjylland side that held their own in a difficult group in last season’s competition.
However, the Danish runners-up kicked off this season’s campaign with a disappointing home defeat to OB on Friday and Celtic will hope to capitalise on early-season sluggishness. Meanwhile, The Bhoys suffered their first defeat under Ange Postecoglou with a narrow 1-0 home defeat to Preston on Saturday.
The newly-appointed Australian manager remains an unknown quantity in European football and must address Celtic’s wretched recent record in European games that saw them concede 19 goals in six Europa League group games last season and also saw them crash out of the Champions League qualifiers at home to Hungarian side Ferencvaros.
Home form has been Celtic’s kryptonite in recent European campaigns, they crashed out of the 2019/2020 Champions League qualifiers following a home defeat to Cluj. While were later dumped out of the Europa League that season following a home defeat to Copenhagen.
Postecoglou has the chance to make a statement by addressing those home frailties with a victory on his competitive debut and his injury-hit side may just benefit from the backing of 9,000 supporters. The absence of the away goals rule and the tension that it brings, may also pave the way for an exciting tie and a veritable goal fest.
Celtic’s defensive record in Europe has been lamentable in recent seasons, especially at Celtic Park. The Bhoys conceded a staggering nine goals in three Europa League home games last season, while the two goals that they conceded against Ferencvaros in their most recent Champions League qualifier proved decisive.
Celtic also suffered defensive meltdowns in several crucial league fixtures last season and it remains to be seen whether they have plugged those holes in such a short space of time under Postecoglou.
Early evidence would suggest that they haven’t, considering they have conceded in all but one of their four friendlies against lower league English opposition so far this summer. Midtjylland will fancy their chances of breaching the Celtic rearguard, meaning that Postecoglou’s side may have to score twice if they are to head to Denmark next week with an advantage.
Celtic’s injury pile-up means that Albian Ajeti might be the only fit striker at Postecoglou’s disposal on Tuesday night. Ajeti has enjoyed a decent pre-season so far, scoring two goals in four games over the last two weeks. The Swiss striker had a dream start to life at Celtic Park last season, scoring five goals in his first six league games, including a crucial 83rd-minute winner against Dundee United.
However, he scored just one goal in his remaining 14 league appearances last season as he fell victim to recurring injuries and a subsequent loss of form. A run of pre-season friendlies will have done him a world of good and he can flourish up front in the expected absences of Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard by firing Celtic to a crucial win.
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