“Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles,” Alex Ferguson

What was it Alex Ferguson used to say – “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”? Aren’t we lucky at Celtic right now then to have the best of both worlds, as Ange Postecoglou’s side fight for silverware on three domestic fronts?

On the one hand, Celtic – following Saturday’s 4-0 win over Aberdeen – have proven to have the most potent attack in Scottish football with an incredible 106 goals already scored this season – including 44 in just our last 14 games.

Yet with The Hoops unbeaten domestic run having stretched to 23 games there is more than a case to be made for the defence also. Something clean sheet contributor Carl Starfelt, as reported in Glasgow Times, has been highlighting in the build-up to this week’s Glasgow Derby Viaplay League Cup Final at Hampden.

 Reo Hatate celebrates with Carl Starfelt after scoring the second goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Aberdeen FC at on February 18, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Aberdeen couldn’t lay a glove on Celtic as an attacking force on Saturday afternoon. Indeed, a feature of Celtic’s play, outside the four goals scored, was just how high Celtic’s defensive line played against the Dons. With Barry Robson’s side pushed deeper than any side we’ve seen play at Celtic Park this season, to the point supporters in the bottom row of the Lisbon Lions stand may have been concerned they may have to vacate their seats to be used by Dons defenders. Something Starfelt believes is a by-product of Celtic’s front foot defending.

“It is a huge part of our game. We like to stop the teams high up the pitch if we can do it which is why you don’t see too many clearances inside the box or too many dangerous situations,” Starfelt said.  “It is because we are on the front foot and really defending in their half of the pitch. Defensively, it is the foundation of our game to work really hard. Everyone works hard defensively so we can win the ball high up the pitch.

“It is important to have good communication, understanding and relationships, especially in the back four. We have been able to keep the core since Ange came in which is positive and we have a really good understanding of what we want to do.

Reo Hatate of Celtic celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic FC and Aberdeen FC at on February 18, 2023 . (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“We also have very good relationships in the back four and all over the pitch. Hopefully it makes it easier for players who have come in like Alistair(Johnston) because it is really clear what we need to and it makes it easier for them that we play very well together.

“We have really good confidence within the squad because we have been scoring a lot of goals. But we have not been conceding many goals either. We have a great squad and great competition within the squad and training has been outstanding. So we will go in (to the final) with a high confidence and a belief in our game.”

The focus for Starfelt and his clean sheet kings now switches quickly to the first domestic silverware of the season being up for grabs this weekend, as Celtic look to defend Ange Postecoglou’s first trophy won as Celtic manager against Hibs last season, with a League Cup Final Glasgow Derby fixture against theRangers on Sunday.

“It is a big game and we are very excited for it,” Starfelt said. “Every trophy means a lot to us so we will always try to win as much as we can. It is a big game and we are looking forward to it a lot.

“I don’t know how it will play out. We will go in to play our football and give everything to win the game. How will it play out? We will see on the day. It is too difficult to predict. We will go in to play our football and with our game plan and we will see.

“All finals and all trophies are really big so it will obviously be big for the club, for the team and for the fans to win it. We will have a good week of preparation and then we will do everything on the day to win it. It is a big thing to never relax but to always be focused and concentrated.”

With Reo Hatate in imperious form – as we saw with a fine individual performance on Saturday – and with Kyogo champing at the bit, having been benched for as long as possible this weekend as a precautionary measure following his shoulder injury against St Mirren, Celtic will be confident they have both the creativity and the goalscoring options in the team capable of downing Michael Beale’s predictably overhyped Ibrox side.

Yet none of that will matter unless Celtic’s defensive stability ensures the stable door remains bolted at Hampden on Sunday.

 Josip Juranovic of Celtic lifts the Premier Sports Cup trophy after victory in the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park on December 19, 2021  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

However, Celtic’s back-line, which barring injury is likely to see Carl Starfelt supported by Joe Hart, Greg Taylor, Alastair Johnston and Starfelt’s central defensive partner Cameron Carter-Vickers, is very much in the habit of doing just that.

And having warmed up nicely by denying Aberdeen a single shot on target over 90 plus minutes on Saturday, never mind the hope of goal, it shows that Alex Ferguson quote may well ring true. The goals may win you the games, but the clean sheets ensure the trophies have green and white ribbons on them come the end of the season.

Niall J

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Don’t forget there’s some Friday Night Football under the lights this coming Friday when Fran Alonso’s title challenging Celtic side take on theRangers at the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie with the match only open to Celtic supporters.  Celtic are a point ahead of theRangers at the moment and three behind Glasgow City who we play a week on Sunday, also over at Airdrie.  A win against theRangers takes Celtic to the top of the league and a win the following Sunday will really put Celtic in the driving seat for our first ever SWPL1 Title. Get along and support the team, for  full ticket details click below…COYGIG!

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As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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