UEFA confirmed yesterday that the Sarajevo v Celtic Europa League Play-off on Thursday night will take place 70km north of the Bosnian capital at Zenica, as the Sarajevo ground is now not deemed fit to stage European matches. Sarajevo’s third qualifying match against Buducnost Podgorica last week, which they won 2-1, was also moved there.
This move adds another complication for Celtic with the team now being forced to spend an extra night there rather than fly home immediately after the game which is what usually happens. With the airport closed Celtic will now fly home next Friday before preparing for the game away to St Johnstone a week today.
Neil Lennon talked about this yesterday but first wanted to pull the media up on their coverage of the 1-0 win over Riga FC on Thursday night. The Celtic manager reckoned that the press reports were unduly harsh and didn’t accurately reflect the way the game went. Just as well Neil Lennon hasn’t got round to reading how the growing army of would-be-Celtic-bosses on Twitter saw the performance in Latvia.
“I wasn’t happy with some of the narratives after the game in terms of headlines where we ‘toiled’ and ‘scraped through’ – we didn’t,” the Celtic manager said, as reported by Scotsman.
“We were in total control of the game. Yes, we didn’t hammer them 3-0 or 4-0. We could have done. Ajeti hit the post, we had another chance flash across the line, McGregor flashed one across in the first half, the keeper made a decent save from Christie. It wasn’t as if we weren’t creating chances. Frimpong, particularly in the second half, was a real catalyst for us going forward,” the actual Celtic manager said.
On the changes to the schedule and the venue for Thursday trip to play Sarajevo Lennon was content to take it in his stride.
“We are adapting as best we can to the different protocols that are put in place,” he said. “We are playing in a neutral stadium, no fans and so it is just about getting the preparations right as best we can before the game.
“We look forward to it. Our away form has been superb. Apart from away to Cluj last year, when we had already qualified, we have a very, very good unbeaten record in the last couple of years which delights me, because playing away from home in Europe, as I know myself, is very difficult to do.”
Transfer speculation is never too far away as the end of the transfer window approaches – again the agony has been extended this year as another consequence of the pandemic. The main subject usually surrounds the Celtic talisman Odsonne Edouard and the Celtic manager admitted that the constant speculation is having an impact on the player.
“He’s a human being at the end of the day, he’s 22,” said Lennon. “We know what a talent he is. He didn’t have the best of games but we know what we’ve got with Odsonne, he’s a quality player.
“We don’t want him to go, obviously, and we have had no significant interest in him as yet. There’s always a bit of agitation when the window’s open but speaking to him he seems content enough. He didn’t have his best of games, but that’s fine.”
Lennon admitted that he’d take a “deep breath” when the window finally slams shut on 5 October but admits that he’s still trying to bring in one new player, presumably Alfie Doughty from Charlton, with a third and final bid likely to be made this week for the left sided wingback. With Charlton yesterday completing the signing of left back Akin Famewo from Norwich City the pieces could be failing into place for a Doughty deal at around £1million to proceed.
DONE DEAL ✍️
Welcome to The Valley, Akin Famewo!
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) September 26, 2020