Charlie Nicholas, so ofter a harsh Celtic critic, has as we have mentioned before jumped on the Ange Postecoglou bandwagon and is now very much a cheerleader for this exciting side playing a brilliant brand of football. And Charlie, like the rest of us will get a better indication of how good a side Celtic really are this evening when we take on the Champions of Europe, Real Madrid under the lights at Celtic Park.
It promises to be memorable and it’s got Charlie excited. “The elite of European football will arrive at Celtic Park tonight as Champions League football returns after a five-year absence – it will be a sensational night,” the former Celtic striker stated via his weekly newspaper column in Scottish Daily Express.
“The Parkhead faithful expect so much from this Celtic side now, knowing they are capable of causing major trouble to any team,” Charlie added. “Celtic have the potential to go two goals up inside the first twenty minutes, given how well they have been starting lately.
“I think the supporters look to nights like the wins over Barcelona and AC Milan and they’re thinking to themselves that this Celtic team can follow that, or even better it. But this is Real Madrid, we are talking about a massive step-up for Celtic here,” Nicholas warned. There’s no Celtic supporters under any illusions about that, and all will have a well derserved respect for tonight’s opponents.
“There are top stars in every department all over the pitch. Up front they are frightening, with Vinicius coming in off the left, Karim Benzema through the middle and Rodrygo on the right,” Charlie added, but perhaps overlooking that Madrid are likely to rotate their squad in the group stages and some of their big stars might start on the bench.
“We all know the qualities Luka Modric and Tony Kroos possess in the middle of the park, but they have top players throughout their team. Real don’t always start that great in the group stages but they certainly know how to win the Champions League, with four triumphs in the last seven years,” Charlie added.
Will the pace and running power of this Celtic side be something the veteran midfielder Luka Modric finds hard to handle? We’ll find out this evening but Charlie reckons that the incredible atmosphere at Celtic Park won’t concern the visitors too much. “They won’t be fazed by the atmosphere at Celtic Park. I feel sure they will positively embrace it. So I just can’t wait for this game to get going. But Celtic are good enough to give them a bloody nose and I can maybe see this as a 2-2,” Charlie concludes.
Now a 2-2 result would not be a bad result for either side and perhaps that’s the way it will play out. Celtic are perhaps slightly weaker at the back with the regular central defence pairing of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt not playing together tonight. Starfelt injured his knee in Saturday’s 4-0 win over theRangers and will be missing for a couple of weeks, according to Ange Postecoglou (see below). So it will be CCV and Moritz Jenz tonight in the centre of the Celtic defence and the German might be regarded as a weak link that Real will try to expolit.
Yet at the other end of the park, Celtic have so many options when it comes to scoring goals and the key decision that Ange Postecoglou will be making today will be whether to start with Kyogo or Giorgios Giakoumakis leading the line. He’s probably going to give Kyogo the nod to tire the Madrid defence before introducing the Greek powerhouse after an hour or so.
So perhaps there will indeed be goals at both ends and since Charlie Nicholas is giving us his prediction I’ll go for Celtic 2 Real Madrid 1 with the Celtic goals coming from Kyogo and a winner from Reo Hatate.
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— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) September 6, 2022