Celtic manager on Jota’s problem: “Muscle strain, fatigue, too good looking”

The Celtic Star was one of three Celtic fan media sites who attended today’s Champions League media conference at Celtic Park where we each got the chance to ask Ange Postecoglou and Matt O’Riley one question each.

We were in alongside the broadcast media so while we were talking to Ange, Matt had the short straw of talking to the Scottish press pack, including the likes of Keith Jackson. Then it was Matt’s turn to talk to the broadcast media and the three representatives from the Celtic fan media while Ange went off to spar with the hacks.

We asked Ange about the possibility of utlising James Forrest tomorrow night pointing out that he looked likely at the weekend and has plenty of Champions League experience, which was something that was being discussed earlier in the media conference relating to the absence of Callum McGregor.

For Matt we asked him about what would happen if Celtic went one up, would the team continue to attack looking for a second goal rather than try to sit back and hold onto a lead.

At the standard media conferences for domestic football, there are two Celtic fan media represtatives there selected on a rota basis from all the participating websites, podcasts and you tube channels. They each are allocated two questions each, so four questions of the player the the manager every week come directly from the fans. For the Champions League it’s three representatives with one question each, as the club tries to make sure all the participating Celtic fan media outlets get their chance.

There was a bit of chat today on how the club regard the fan media addition to the overall media picture and the noises were very positive, so hopefully it’s here to stay.

Here’s how it all transpired with Ange Postecolgou’s media conference (we’ll cover Matt O’Riley’s separately)…and  the wee asides at the end that aren’t included in the Media Conference videos were both excellent. Ange’s final remark as he left the stage is used in our headline and well done to Gerry McCulloch for fighting Celtic’s corner on some fake Celtic bashing news presented as fact. Gerry beat us to it!

Broadcast Media: Do you want to give us a squad update please?

Ange Postecoglou: “After the weekend David Turnbull and Moritz Jenz both missed out through illness but they look like they will be okay. Jota we will just wait and see as he is still a bit sore from the weekend and we will make a decision on him tomorrow.” Maybe Celtic could use cbd gummies for recovery from these type of injuries especially at this time if year when there are Henry sapping Champions League group stage matches to contend with alongside crucial domestic fixtures in both the Scottish Premiership and the Scottish League Cup.

Broadcast Media:  Will it be a last-minute thing with him?

Ange Postecoglou: “Yes. He pulled up sore at the weekend and we will just have to assess it. It is a quick turnaround in games and on the second day we usually have a couple missing anyway but with the game tomorrow we will need to make a decision.”

Broadcast Media:  Are you expecting quite an open game like last week?

Ange Postecoglou: “I think if you look at both clubs’ approach we both like to be fairly direct and quick with their football. I don’t expect them to sit back at all. I think looking at the group both teams think it is a game where a win is going to be fairly significant. The nature of both football clubs suggests that whilst it might not be an open game it will be exciting.”

Broadcast Media:  With Callum McGregor out would you expect to use Matt O’Riley in his position?

Ange Postecoglou: “It’s an option for sure. I thought he did well at the weekend. We have two or three different options we can play there. It’s all about seeing how the guys shape up and our session today was fairly light. I’ll have a think about it overnight. We have two or three options and I thought on the weekend that Matt, Reo (Hatate) and (Sead) Haksabanovic looked good as a threesome but we also have other options too.

Broadcast Media:  You will be looking for a decent performance but will you take any kind of win?

Ange Postecoglou: “I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. I don’t know why people think you need one or the other. If we put in a good performance there is a good chance we will get a good result. I think from my perspective the reason we go about our business the way we do is that we feel it will give us the best chance of success. For us, the focus is always on playing our football and putting in a strong performance against a quality opponent and that will give us the best chance to get the result we want.”

Broadcast Media:  They are good from middle to front and they have exceptional players but how well-matched do you think the two sides are?

Ange Postecoglou: “I think you saw last week that for most of the game it was evenly matched. Up until they scored the second goal chances were fairly even with both teams. We had similar types of chances created with quick transition movements. They have definitely got some strengths that we need to be wary of but I think we showed enough last week to show that we have enough about us to hurt them as well.”

Broadcast Media:  You showed against Real Madrid for an hour that you can play at this level is that the kind of high-intensity performance that you are looking for again?

Ange Postecoglou: “Yes. I thought we were good against Shakhtar too. That is a game that we probably should have won. The performances haven’t been too bad when you take into account the level of football that we are playing at. At home, it is a different proposition for us and with our support behind us and the general atmosphere you get here it helps get the momentum going really early. That’s what we will be looking for tomorrow night.”

Broadcast Media:  With Jota and the kind of player he is for Celtic, will you give him as long as possible to be fit and available or potentially put him on the bench to get something out of him?

Ange Postecoglou: “It just comes down to whether we think he can play or not. All players are important in different ways and with such a short turnaround it is not unusual for someone not to be right the day before a game. It is just a matter of whether he is right or not. If he is right we will play him, if he’s not then he’ll miss out.”

Broadcast Media:  You spoke about the need to be brave in Europe and do what you do domestically in that arena, in the interim have you reminded the guys of the things they have done well in the three matches so far?

Ange Postecoglou: “We did that in the review of the last game. After we equalised against RB Leipzig, I felt we went into a self-preservation mode. The equaliser gave us something and in giving us something we tried to hold onto that rather than seeking more. When you fall into that trap, especially against a team that has the quality that RB do in the front third you leave yourself susceptible for them to hurt us. All these things are new experiences for our guys and it’s a bit different playing at this level. They are all so desperate to be successful and for the team to be successful and when you get yourself back into a game like that it is human nature to say we don’t want to give that away and you go into your shell a bit. I’m sure the players will have learned from that and it is the sort of feedback I gave them after the game. When we were playing our stuff and had a positive mindset we matched it.”

Broadcast Media:  You said that you have got ambitions to develop in this competition and move forward in it are these the type of games at home where you targeted getting points?

Ange Postecoglou: “It is still a process and people want to go through these steps really quickly. The biggest take on us is that we create a lot of chances and we haven’t taken them. Is it just a matter of taking them? Yes, it is. That doesn’t happen from one day to the next. It is the same as winning games at this level as that doesn’t happen from one day to the next. You need to grow, you need to develop and you need to have a real positive mindset in the way you go about things.

“You have to give yourself opportunities for success and the more you are in that window of opportunity the more likely over time you will get success. If it was easily fixable then you’d see a lot more teams winning the Champions League – but you don’t. There is a reason a select few do and there is a reason that a select few get through to the latter stages. You have got to aspire to get there and I think this is the best way forward for us.”

Broadcast Media:  You talked about having two or three options for Callum McGregor’s position – is it a case of trial and error or are you assured of those options or is it a case of horses for courses?

Ange Postecoglou: “I hope it’s not trial and error mate. I spend a hell of a lot of time thinking about football and doing what I do. There is a little bit of methodology that goes into it. With Callum, he is one that has had that experience at this level, he knows what is required to win a game at the Champions League level and international level. He is used to that environment. He thrives in it. You cannot replace that. You can only learn that by experience. That is where we are going to have to get other guys to take a leap forward and show that kind of experience that maybe does not exist right now in that kind of environment. In terms of our style of play, I still think we have players within the group who we can compensate for missing Callum.”

Broadcast Media: You have spoken about the belief in the players and the fact they are creating chances and they will take them won’t they?

Ange Postecoglou: “It is similar to winning games and the more times you give yourself the opportunity to score goals the likelihood is that you will get them. I think a much more difficult problem would be if we were not creating chances at all and then we would be saying with the few chances we create then we have to score. Ultimately if you want to win games you have to score goals – there is no other way of going about it. If we are creating chances and not taking them then the more we consistently do that eventually we will take our chances. I think we have players in the group who can do that. If we were relying on just one or two opportunities a game then that is where it would become a little bit more challenging.”

Broadcast Media:  Did you always feel that the second half of the group matches would be better for you and now that you have settled into the competition you can kick on?

Ange Postecoglou: “That is kind of what you hope for. We want more experiences at this level and we become more accustomed to this level and what it means and the fine lines between being successful and not having success. That doesn’t mean the challenge is any easier as RB Leipzig are a better team today than they were in the first round of matches. The one thing you know about this level is that it is relentless and that is what you need to become accustomed to.

‘This is the highest level of club football. There are no easy games. You could play one hundred games at the Champions League level and you know that the next one is still going to be difficult. That is the experience that you come through and you go into every game understanding that. When you begin you think maybe it gets easier – it doesn’t. It stays exactly the same. Some of the greatest sides haven’t won it yet because it is constantly demanding at this level.”

Broadcast Media:  Looking at the group do you see this as a must-win game?

Ange Postecoglou: “I don’t think I have ever gone into a game not thinking it is a must-win game. If I came to this football club and I thought today it doesn’t really matter if we win or not it wouldn’t go down too well. From the context of the group, it is pretty tight when you look at it beyond Real Madrid who have started really well. They are a bit more comfortable.

“For the other three teams, we still have two home games and the others only have one home game and every result you get puts pressure on the opposition. What is important for us is that we go in there tomorrow night and put in a strong performance and give ourselves a chance for success that is the first thing. You can’t hope for these things to happen you have got to put yourself in a position where you can be successful.”

Broadcast Media: Was Matt O’Riley playing deeper enforced because of Callum McGregor’s absence and why the change of shape?

Ange Postecoglou:  “It was not a change of shape. We were playing exactly the same and Matty dropped into Cal’s position and Haksabanovic has gone into Matty’s position. The shape is exactly the same. It comes down to the different nuances of the players as they are all a bit different. Matty doesn’t play like Cal the same way that none of our wingers are the same. Kyogo and Giako are not the same. We play the same way it is just that different players coming in bring different sorts of qualities to it. It may change the way we do certain things but the shape is exactly the same.”

The Celtic Star: You talk about the loss of Callum McGregor with his Champions League expereince. James Forrest has that in abundance too and he looked looked very lively at the weekend so is he in your thoughts for tomorrow?

Ange Postecoglou:  “Yes, he is. That is why James is still part of what we are doing here. It is important that we have players like him. I thought he was really good when he came on at the weekend and he took the game on and was really positive. He is another one who has actually performed at this level. He has made an impact at the Champions League level and international games and it is not just his experience. He is definitely part of the plans.”

Broadcast Media: It is nine years since Celtic won a Champions League group game what kind of achievement would it be for you to end that disappointing run?

Ange Postecoglou:  “I was not responsible for all of those nine years. It just goes to show how hard it is. I don’t see it as a failure as we have had some fantastic football teams at this club that haven’t been able to win at this level but we are not alone in that. There are plenty of fantastic football clubs and great teams who have not managed it. It is the highest level of club football and wins are hard to attain. For us, as a football club, it is where we want to be.

“This is where our aspirations and ambitions lie to consistently be at this level. If we do that then we give ourselves a chance to win football matches. It doesn’t get any easier as you go along and this is a big challenge for us. What a win would do is give us more belief that we can continue on this road and become a well-credentialed Champions League football club.”

Photo by Kieran McManus/Shutterstock

Celtic Fan Media: How do you transmit that belief from domestic football into European matches?

Ange Postecoglou: “That comes through the experience of guys feeling that. The way we won on the weekend is not the first time we’ve done that. The players have experienced that before. We’ve been down in games with ten men in the last minute and we have found a way to win. I knew when we conceded in the last minute on Saturday that the only thought in the player’s heads was to get the ball as there was still time.

“They have experienced it they have done it before but they need to do it at this level and that is how you can give yourself the belief. It is easy for me to talk about it and it is different when you are out there, particularly for this group of players who are still a relatively young team in terms of demographic. I am hoping that with every game we play and playing our football they can see and feel it out there and they know we are matching up with very good football teams. Now it is a matter of trying to transfer that into having success.

Celts Are Here: Do you hope by the end of this chunk of games before the World Cup you will be happy with all of the squad and you will have seen what they can give you?

Ange Postecoglou: “That will be a challenge as we still have another ten or eleven games to go. We are only at the beginning and we are feeling the effects of it and most clubs will throughout this period. Whether the clubs are playing in England or Scotland we all have ten or eleven games in the space of four or five weeks and they will all suffer similar kinds of things that we have. You have to change your team and protect your players so we can keep performing.

“Hopefully, we get through this period without too much attrition in terms of the playing squad and we can maintain our levels. It really is a game-by-game scenario for us and trying to see where our players are at and which players potentially need a rest and others that are ready to come in. That’s why I was pleased with the ones that came in at the weekend and contributed to our performance and you could tell at the end that they needed a game.

A couple of wee asides. After the media conference ended and Ange was walking away with Celtic Head of PR, Iain Jamieson, one of the broadcast media guys asked him just to clarify Jota’s problem. Ange replied, “Muscle strain, fatigue, too good looking.”

(Photo by RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images)

Gerry McCulloch takes a bit of stick now and again on Celtic twitter but today he angrily pulled up the hack who claimed Celtic hadn’t won a Champions League match in nine years, telling him in no uncertain terms that Celtic had beaten Anderlecht in 2017. The response was something like “I was talking about winning here.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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