Positives for Celtic in uninspiring season

Written by Hamish Carton.

Dumped out of both cups at home and a disappointing, if adequate, season in Europe. This season hasn't exactly been a glowing success for Celtic. Up until last Tuesday there was one crumb of comfort in the shape of an unbeaten league season. Aberdeen soon saw to that though and left Celtic with a series of meaningless fixtures to round of the campaign. Sure the Hoops will once again win the title but that will be little consolation after an uninspiring season.

There is cause for optimism though. It comes in the shape of new recruits who seem to have added the swagger back to Celtic's play. Deadline day signing Leigh Griffiths has flourished in his early days at Parkhead, netting four in his first four starts. He looks like the penalty-box striker that Neil Lennon has been looking for since the departure of Gary Hooper in July. Griffiths' arrival also seems to have awoken Anthony Stokes from his mid-season slump and the Irishman looks like he may be back to his sparkling best.

Celtic's midfield has taken a battering over the past 18 months with the loss of Ki Sung-Yeung, Victor Wanyama and then Joe Ledley in January. 20 million pounds worth of talent gone but it looks like they may finally have found adequate replacements. Norwegian signing Stefan Johansen looked impressive on his debut, finding cute passes as well as snarling at the opposition to turn over possession, but struggled when put up against the combative Barry Robson in the cup defeat to Aberdeen. The signs look good for Johansen on the whole though and he looks ready the bridge the gap left by Ledley. Israeli holding midfield Nir Biton has taken time to adapt to life in Glasgow but now looks to be a great find. Calm on the ball, a competent passer and a terrific reader of the game, Biton looks to have it all and may not be at Celtic for much longer if his current form continues. Celtic's major downfall in this season's Champions League was their inability to keep possession of the ball. In Johansen and Biton they have two men who rarely give it away.

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In depth guide to Celtic's possible Champions League opponents

Written by David Coates.

THE dust has barely settled on Bayern Munich becoming Champions of Europe for a fifth time, but the draw for the new European campaign is set to be made.

After their heroics in last season’s Champions League Celtic’s task to make the group stages again has been made even harder.

They will have to negotiate three rounds if they are to emulate what they did last season.

The glitz and glamour of that night against Barcelona at Parkhead will seem a long time ago as they embark on the other side of the Champions League coin.

Trips to Kazakhstan, Bosnia, Albania and Latvia lie in wait and will seem a million miles away from the Nou Camp.

Here is a look ahead to who Celtic could face when the draw is made on Monday.

FK ZELJEZNICAR- Won the Bosnian league title for the sixth time in their history winning with two games to spare ahead of rivals FK Sarajevo. The Bosnians would be the toughest draw for Celtic according to the UEFA Coefficient rankings. They lost to Slovenian champions NK Maribor 6-2 on aggregate in the second qualifying round last season. Don’t have a great European pedigree but their biggest win in a UEFA competition was against St Johnstone winning 5-1 in 1971.

FK HAFNARFJORDUR- Regained the Icelandic Premier League title after nine wins in their last 12 league games helped them pip KR Rejkjavik. They lost in the second qualifying round in the Europa League last season losing to Swedish side AIK 2-1 on aggregate. Will be a team that Celtic will want to avoid given that they are already six games into their new league campaign currently lying in 3rd place.

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Celtic: Drawing conclusions from Europe

Written by Conor Hannigan.

PERHAPS the O’Neill/Strachan era gave Celtic fans an unrealistic expectation of what could be expected from the club in terms of European competition. Unrealistic expectations or not there was a sense of relief, and pride, as Celtic made it into the group stages, ultimately clawing their way into the last sixteen of the world’s most prestigious club tournament. The last six months have given the squad precious exposure to the best teams in the world, undoubtedly gaining invaluable experience while proving they are a threat irrespective of the quality of their domestic league.

While Lennon’s men will certainly have learned much throughout the campaign, there is also much that both Celtic fans and the world have learned about the club.

The journey began in August when Celtic were paired with HJK Helsinki in the third qualifying round following a first league title in three years. After a sub par performance at home in which they scraped out a 2-1 win, they breezed to a comfortable 4-1 aggregate score after dispatching the Finnish team on their artificial turf. Two 2-0 victories against Helsingborgs cemented their place in the group stage for the first time since 2009.

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Are Celtic saying goodbye to Thomas Rogne?

Written by Danny Collins.

THERE has been a very mixed week within Celtic Park as a draw in Perth saw the Hoops go 18 points clear, then a win against a spirited Dundee side rocketed them into a 21 point lead at the summit of the table. 
However, news broke this week that central defender Thomas Rogne has rejected a new contract offer.

Rogne (22) has been at the club since 2010 and in that time, the Norwegian centre back hasn’t done anything overly impressive but has been near enough solid in every game he’s played for the club.  His decision to reject a new contract suggests he’s dissatisfied with his offer which is a surprise in many supporters’ eyes.  He’s still a young player with plenty of potential and could still have a big future at the club.

Celtic fans can argue that we have suitable centre backs in the first team squad who can fill in for Rogne, but do we really? Ambrose, Wilson, Mulgrew.  It’s a 50-50 gamble every time Ambrose plays, he can have extraordinary games but then can stick out like a sore thumb.  Mulgrew also, although he’s been played in midfield and down the left side a lot this season.

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Celtic 0-3 Juventus: What do the fans think?

Written by Administrator.

JUVENTUS left Glasgow with their place in the last eight of the Champions League all but assured. It was a desperately disappointing night for the Celtic faithful who saw their side playing catch-up as early as the third minute, and despite a commendable performance two late goals leaves their hopes of making it to Wembley in tatters.
Three fans who took in the game give us their view on the performance, and where it went wrong for Neil Lennon's men.
Celtic had a decent game plan and Juve were happy to sit in. There was a bit of fortune about the first goal but we kept playing with our heads up after that early mishap.

There was debate about Efe playing tonight but nothing ventured, nothing gained. It might have paid off and in my view it's better to take a chance than be safe and get trounced.

Neil Lennon should be commended for the work he's done at Celtic rather than be lambasted for getting beat by a Serie A team at the top of their league.

Considering that we were up against not only the top Italian side, but a contentious referee and lots of mystifying decisions its little wonder the score line ended as it did.

Celtic had enough chances to score but time after time, they landed straight at Buffon.
Lichtenwhatshisname should have been penalised for his actions but all Celtic players should not feel sorry for themselves and focus for the return leg.
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Tactical Analysis: Raith Rovers v Celtic

Written by Conor Hannigan.

There was to be no dream Old Firm matchup in either of this year’s cups after Rangers lost 3-0 to Dundee United the night prior to Celtic’s match. The league leaders were away to Raith at one of the more old fashioned grounds in the country at Stark’s Park.

After losing to St. Mirren last weekend, everyone at Celtic knew the importance of progression to the quarterfinals of the Scottish Cup. This was reflected in the starting eleven that Lennon set out.

Lineup and Formation

Injuries to Emilio Izaguirre and Georgios Samaras in the midweek game against Kilmarnock meant that the starting eleven was fairly predictable. Wilson and Lustig anchored the back four with Matthews and Mulgrew on either side. The four midfielders formed a diamond with Hooper up front and Tony Watt alongside him as Lennon moved away from the 4-3-3 shape which has been deployed with regularity in the last three or four matches.

The 4-4-2 didn’t take long to transform into more of a 2-6-2. With Rovers only playing one man up front, and their midfield sitting deep for the vast majority of the opening period, Matthews and Mulgrew could push on as a wingback would and Lustig and Wilson comfortably dealt with the lone number nine for Raith. At times they were higher than Kayal and Ledley, the respective wide men in the midfield diamond.

Signing of Tom Rogic epitomises Celtic's transfer policy

Written by Conor Hannigan.

By Conor Hannigan:

Celtic’s policy of signing talented but unpolished young players surfaced once again when they completed the £450,000 signing of Tom Rogic. The 24 year old Australian impressed Neil Lennon and his team after joining the squad for a trial in Spain. After winning Nike’s The Chance in 2010, and joining the Nike Football Academy, he signed for Central Coast Mariners in the A-League before joining Celtic. The signing adds depth to an already able bodied midfield, but more importantly, Rogic will bring creativity and an attacking midfield force.

With Lennon constantly tinkering with his formation in domestic competition, the signing of Rogic offers what Celtic have admittedly been missing. In months before the January break, the Northern Irishman began to favour a 3-5-2 formation which worked well upon initial trial. However, as the games wore on, and the squad slowly began to deteriorate through injury, Celtic showed less attacking flair and inventiveness than when the system was first tested. This was partly due to absence of a proper attacking midfielder in the team, and the signing of the young Australian will hopefully fill that void to an extent.
In that regard, the signing seems like a move which will bolster attacking midfield options in domestic competition. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that Rogic will feature in either of Celtic’s clashes with Juventus, which are fast approaching.
His signing of a four and a half year deal is an indicator of Celtic’s commitment to his long term development, but most likely, eventual sale for profit.
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Why Celtic need James Forrest fit and in top form

Written by Conor Hannigan.

By Conor Hannigan:

This time last year James Forrest had the world at his feet. He had broken into the first team in 2011 and earned his place as a regular in Neil Lennon’s starting eleven in emphatic fashion. He was named one of FIFA’s Players to Watch for 2012 as well as featuring in IBWM’s “The 100”.
Perhaps expectations were a tad too high for the young Scot, as injury and inconsistency have stunted his progress and development towards becoming a true top class player since that time. However, at the unripe age of 21 he remains one of the top young prospects in British and European football.
Celtic need him to shred that title, and instead become one of the top players around in his position.

Modern day football is in an age where the traditional winger is becoming somewhat obsolete. With the resurrection of the full back as an attacking asset, and top European teams sacrificing width in midfield for creative attacking flair, there are few proper wingers around nowadays. Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Aaron Lennon spring to mind, but you’d need to dig a little deeper to come up with a few more names.

In a team stacked with natural central midfielders, Celtic need the pace, skill, and ability to get crosses in that Forrest provides. Without him in the team the Scottish champions possess little natural width in midfield. Lennon has obviously taken note of this in recent weeks, playing Izaguirre and Matthews in advanced positions and going with three at the back. While this has worked well at times, it looks to be second best to the 4-4-2 shape that Celtic used en route to their title win last season. Indeed, Neil Lennon stated following Celtic’s 4-0 win over Ross County a few weeks ago that “We’re able to go to our more natural formation when James is part of the side.”

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