Celtic take on Real Betis tomorrow night and will be looking to end a hoodoo that has seen the Hoops go 59 years without a win in Spain.
The match is set to be the Bhoys’ 20th competitive fixture on Spanish soil, but they’ve lost 16 of those, and drew three (that stat includes the UEFA Cup Final defeat against Porto in 2003). A similar run of disappointing results surrounded Celtic in Italy, but Olivier Ntcham’s late winner against Lazio in November 2019 handed the club their first ever away win over Italian opposition at the 13th attempt.
Ange Postecoglou will be seeking to break the club’s Spanish duck in Seville, but he will have his work cut out as Kyogo Furuhashi, Mikey Johnston, James Forrest, Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor are all absent through injury. Meanwhile, Liel Abada is set to miss out for religious reasons as he celebrates the Jewish Holiday – Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
A clear lack options in the wide areas presents a problem for the manager. Jota is the only recognised winger available and it is anyone’s guess as to how Ange will counter that issue. One way that he could make things work is to play Juranovic at left back, as happened at Ibrox, and put Mongtomery in a left wing position with Jota shifting to the right hand side. However, the boss could also play Juranovic in front of Ralston, enabling Jota to play as a left winger and either Scales or Montgomery would then slot in at left back.
In terms of the midfield, it is likely that McCarthy will replace McGregor, but Soro is also a viable option for the holding role. Ange may even change his philosophy for this particular match by playing both of the aforementioned defensive midfielders at the expense of either Rogic or Turnbull.
It appears that the fluidity in Celtic’s approach will be hard to maintain as the line-up will be somewhat makeshift. By contrast, Real Betis only have two injury concerns; Diego Lainez remains on the sidelines with an ankle injury, while defender Youssouf Sabaly is also ruled out with a muscle problem.
The Spanish giants have a phenomenal team with the likes of Rodriguez, Fekir, Bellerin and Bartra in their ranks. It was already a tough task for Celtic, but the game now looks even harder. If Ange Postecoglou can lead his depleted side to victory, it will be an outstanding feat, which would no doubt boost confidence for the campaign ahead.