Celtic 2-1 Wolfsburg. Friendly though it may have been, this afternoon’s fixture was a completely contrasting display to Tuesday’s defeat by Lincoln Red Imps.
Celtic started brightly this afternoon, moved the ball at pace & looked to attack at every opportunity.
Brendan Rodgers went with a much more positive starting XI than in Gibraltar (namely Bitton & Ambrose didn’t start), and while Scott Brown maintained his place, the energy around him appeared to give him a new lease of life & his performance was a vast improvement on Tuesday night’s.
With 5 changes to Tuesday’s starting line-up; perhaps the most positive alteration was the formation. For the first time in a what feels like a long time we started a match with 2 strikers. Dembele lead the line with Griffiths playing just off him. At the back was a 3 of Lustig, O’Connell, and Sviatchenko when in possession of the ball, with Tierney completing the defence when Wolfsburg were on the attack; Lustig shifting across to right back and Tierney dropping into left back from his advanced position.
The biggest positives of this tactical ploy was that it gave the midfield, particularly Roberts and Armstrong, the freedom to play to their strengths. While he may not have seen much of the ball, always knowing that Lustig was behind him meant that Patrick Roberts could focus on playing to his strengths in the attacking half of the pitch. Similarly, Stuart Armstrong, so often stuck out on the left wing in his Celtic career, had the freedom to roam inside when we were on the attack. In possession Tierney became a left winger, with the bundle of energy that is Stuart Armstrong acting as a driving force alongside McGregor in the middle of the park.
As we are all aware from the past two seasons, it is vital to have fluidity and alternative options in our systems, otherwise the football becomes stale and we become easy to read.
Brendan rang the changes at half time, and while the pace slowed at the beginning of the second half, it was a similarly pleasing display; Ryan Christie and Scott Allan particularly showing some nice flashes of play on the ball. With the former scoring a tidy winner after some nice footwork.
If we get a decent sized crowd behind us and an energetic, attacking line-up, then I’ll be feeling a lot more positive coming into the 2nd leg against Lincoln Red Imps following today’s victory. After all, progressing through this tie isn’t something that should ever have been in any doubt.
Time for the Bhoys to do what they’re paid for.