Af­ter has­sle from Hearts, Europe will be Turk­ish de­light for Celtic

Lustig look­ing for­ward to Fener­bahce af­ter frus­trat­ing draw with Gorgie side


THE Europa League is a more dif­fi­cult com­pe­ti­tion than the Lad­brokes Premier­ship, Fener­bahce are a more for­mi­da­ble team than Hearts and Nani and Robin van Per­sie are more lethal fin­ish­ers than Juanma and Os­man Sow.

Yet, Mikael Lustig is cor­rect to spec­u­late that Celtic will not en­counter the same dif­fi­cul­ties in their sec­ond Group A match at Park­head on Thurs­day night as they did in their latest do­mes­tic fix­ture at the week­end.

Rob­bie Neil­son’s side de­fended res­o­lutely against the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons on Satur­day to bring a run of three con­sec­u­tive defeats in the league, and 10 straight losses against their op­po­nents, to an end and earn a point.

Last sea­son’s Cham­pi­onship win­ners could even have snatched a vic­tory in in­jury-time had it not been for Efe Am­brose’s pro­fes­sional foul on Sam Ni­chol­son – an in­fringe­ment which earned him an au­to­matic red card – as he burst through on goal.

Ronny Deila, though, called it cor­rectly when he stated that Neil­son’s team had “parked the bus” af­ter­wards. The Scot­tish cham­pi­ons will not face the same chal­lenge when they take to the field against their Turk­ish ri­vals later this week. Fener­bahce are reel­ing from a shock 3-1 de­feat to Molde in Is­tan­bul a fort­night ago and will be de­ter­mined to atone for that re­sult with a vic­tory in Glas­gow. Celtic can ex­pect to feel the full force of their front­line.

“I think the fact they lost the first group game means that they need a lot of at­tack­ing play and three points,” said Lustig. “It’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult, but, while we are a bit sad at draw­ing with Hearts, we need to lift our­selves.”

With Nani and van Per­sie, the for­mer Manch­ester United play­ers, ex­pected to be in the start­ing line-up, Lustig and his fel­low Celtic de­fend­ers will have to be at their best to re­pel their ex­pen­sivelyassem­bled visi­tors.

Given their un­con­vinc­ing dis­plays so far this term, at set-pieces in par­tic­u­lar, there is no guar­an­tee they will be suc­cess­ful. But the Swede, who has squared up to the Por­tuguese winger and Dutch striker on in­ter­na­tional duty in the past, ap­pears com­fort­able with the chal­lenge. Plus, he feels how the Scot­tish cham­pi­ons per­form up front will be more im­por­tant to their prospects,

“I’ve played against both of them [Nani and van Per­sie] be­fore,” he said. “They are maybe a lit­tle bit older but they are very good qual­ity and ex­cel­lent foot­ballers. But they will have nine other good play­ers – Fener­bahce is a big club who has spent a lot of money so I’m sure it will be a huge game.

“It’s es­pe­cially ex­cit­ing for the fans. They see the big names from Fener­bahce and they pre­fer that. We could have drawn some­one like Kras­nador from Rus­sia – a team that doesn’t have the big names but are still a good side. Hope­fully we can get the Euro­pean at­mos­phere that makes Celtic Park spe­cial and we can then re­spond.

“It’s a re­ally big game and we need to stay fo­cused and go through the group. We want to be in Europe as long as pos­si­ble. When it’s a big team with big names in it then it makes it a lit­tle bit more spe­cial.

“We won’t get as many chances as we did against Hearts. When chances come our way we need to score, as we did against Ajax. In Europe, when we get op­por­tu­ni­ties we need to make sure they count.”

De­spite their fail­ure to con­vert one of the plethora of chances which they cre­ated against Hearts, Celtic were able to make up some ground on Premier­ship lead­ers Aberdeen, who lost their first league game of the cam­paign against In­ver­ness.

The ul­tra-de­fen­sive tac­tics adopted by the Ed­in­burgh side had much to do with that fail­ure to net. But Deila’s side can ex­pect to face that ap­proach, at home in par­tic­u­lar, most weeks. They have to be far more clin­i­cal to avoid drop­ping any more points in fu­ture.

“We wanted three points and the way we played – es­pe­cially in the first half – it’s un­be­liev­able we didn’t win it,” said Lustig. “In the sec­ond half they de­fended quite well, but in the first-half we should have had four or five goals.”

At the mo­ment, Celtic can only field Nadir Ciftci and Leigh Grif­fiths in at­tack. An­thony Stokes ap­pears to have played his last game for the club. With the Europa League as well as three do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tions to be con­tested, that is not enough.

Ju­won Oshaniwa was one of Hearts’ stand­out per­form­ers. But the de­fen­sive move which im­pressed the left-back the most was the foul his fel­low Nige­rian in­ter­na­tion­al­ist Am­brose com­mit­ted on Ni­chol­son at the death. “It was a very smart de­ci­sion by Efe,” said Oshaniwa. “If he’d let Sam go, that would have been the end of it for his team. It would have been dis­as­trous for them. So tech­ni­cally, it re­ally was a smart thing for him to do. He left him­self as a sac­ri­fice rather than lose the goal.

“For us, it was not a good thing. But speak­ing as a foot­baller, as a de­fender, it was the right thing. If he thinks, I’ll play safe and let him go, then Ni­chol­son goes in and scores. Dis­as­ter.”

Pic­ture: SNS

SEE­ING RED: Efe Am­brose is a pic­ture of de­spair af­ter be­ing red-carded for trip­ping Hearts’ Sam Ni­chol­son.

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