FK Jablonec v Celtic – Match Preview, Training Photos

FK Jablonec are Celtic’s opponents tonight as the Hoops drop from Champions League qualification into the third-round qualifying stage of UEFA’s consolation Europa League Consolation Cup. The Celts will be hoping to progress via tonight’s Czech opponents to face Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in a play-off for a shot at the group stages or face the ignominy of the inaugural Europa Conference league.

As such there is a great deal of reputational value for Celtic in defeating our 9th placed Fortuna Liga opponents tonight and there is good news and bad news when it comes to assessing the standard of opponent we face at the Strelnice Stadium.

The good news is this side are not as good as FC Midtjylland technically, tactically or when it comes to personnel who could hurt Celtic. The bad news is their agricultural style of football is exactly the sort of approach Celtic have been struggling with of late.

Whereby the FC Midtjylland tie saw our opponents play a high press and attempt intricate patterns of play to break our own, FK Jablonec will start much lower, sit off, make themselves difficult to beat and hit on the counter, be that down the flanks or aiming to get the ball forward early and play for second balls. If FC Midtjylland played football Jablonec are a little more hoofball.

Players of FK Jablonec attend the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Radek Petrasek

Okay so that assessment is perhaps a little unfair. The Czech’s are direct of course but they will attempt to play out from the back and into midfield, it’s just when Jablonec do, they don’t wait for long. If they are pressured, as they will be by Celtic’s high press, this team don’t risk trying to play around their opponent, they know their limitations mean they will be caught out. Instead, they will revert to long diagonals to wide players or up to the striker Martin Dolezal and play to their strengths.

Libor Holik of Jablonec attends the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic. Photo/Radek Petrasek

That also doesn’t mean Jablonec are not organised, they very much are. They are a tall, strong and physical side and they are very much a team and they cover each other and limit the gaps between each other well. From their first two games – a 1-0 win over Banik Ostrava and a 3-0 reverse to Mlada Boleslav – it appears they start with a 4-2-3-1 formation but in reality, they operate with a deeper 4-4-1-1, and whilst defending move to two at the front to block off the opposition central defenders building from the back.

Players of Celtic Glasgow attend the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Radek Petrasek

For Celtic this means we will need to push the envelope, we will have to move them about. Therefore, much like Hearts at the weekend Celtic’s tempo, interchanging and passing will have to be sharp. In fact, the passing will have to be far less wasteful than it was at Tynecastle, particularly in the early stages, as a lack of accuracy from Celtic will cough up possession and Jablonec like nothing better than to transition as an opponent has overcommitted to attack and failed to see it through.

Tom Rogic of Celtic attends the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Rade xPetrasek

Celtic’ signing of Kyogo Furuhashi could be invaluable for Celtic tonight as playing the Japanese signing on the left of our front three could allow James Forrest to return to his natural position on the right and allow Celtic to actually get in behind the Jablonec defence rather than be forced to cut inside.

Meanwhile despite his lack of goals and perceived effort of late, Odsonne Edouard’s tendency to drop a little deeper rather than play as an out and out striker could also work as it will drag at least one central defender to the player, creating space in behind. If Turnbull – or perhaps a consideration would be to play Ryan Christie centrally tonight and exploit his ability to carry the ball – or McGregor can run beyond Edouard into the space Edouard creates Celtic have a real chance of getting in behind this defence and having clear sight of goal.

Odsonne Edouard of Celtic attends the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Radek Petrasek

Defensively there may be calls for Stephen Welsh to return to the starting line-up, however with Jablonec playing so deeply don’t be surprised to see Nir Bitton keep his place.

New signing Carl Starfelt is very much an organiser and reader of the game at the back and despite some obvious errors on Saturday night he performed well in the tackle and his passing was in the main superb throughout. I’ve no doubt Starfelt will be a good player for Celtic but I’m not certain his strengths will ever be advancing with the ball. As such having Bitton able to bring the ball out from the back and hopefully encourage Jablonec to commit a player or two to leave their strict defensive shape could allow Celtic to immediately gain some space in the midfield, this could be essential when the opposition sit in so deeply.

Ryan Christie of Celtic attends the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Radek Petrasek

Although Welsh is a far more aggressive defender, we have Starfelt able to carry out much of those tasks, as such there is little need for two defenders who prefer to pass the ball on quickly rather than advance with it against this opposition and Bitton fits the bill. His height may also be advantageous when dealing with long balls or indeed defending the dreaded set piece vulnerabilities we have which Jablonec will attempt to exploit.

In terms of players to watch out for the experienced Tomas Hübschman will be a name some may be aware of with 57 caps for the Czech national team and history playing at the highest level with Shakhtar Donetsk and Sparta Prague. The 32-year-old central midfielder hasn’t played so far this season however he has been on the bench and his experience may warrant a return to the side for such an important tie, and even if his star may be descending, he’s still likely to be a player retaining plenty of ability.

Joe Hart of Celtic attends the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Radek Petrasek

Meanwhile on the left-wing Vaclav Pilar with 22 caps and 5 international caps would certainly warrant respect as a threat to the right side of Celtic’s defence, as would the aforementioned Martin Dolezal to our central defence with 67 goals in 173 league appearances and a real physical focal point to the team.

This however should all be about Celtic tonight. It must be tempting for Ange Postecoglou to start with new signing Joe Hart in goal straight off the bat with a defence of Tony Ralston, Nir Bitton, Carl Starfelt and Greg Taylor in front of Celtic’s new number one.

In midfield allowing Ismaila Soro to act as a midfield pivot and allow Callum McGregor to continue to play further forward alongside Ryan Christie to come in and replace the out of sorts David Turnbull, will allow more energy to be added to the Celtic midfield.

Coach of Celtic Ange Postecoglou attends the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Radek Petrasek

Up front it has to be Furuhashi on the left and James Forrest on the right to afford a balanced look to the frontline. And this is the sort of game that could suit Odsonne Edouard’s tendency to drop deep and look to link with the midfield. It is a game where the service into our striker needs to be accurate and early but the onus has to be on Edouard to take fewer touches and lay the ball off quicker, as we saw to great effect when the Frenchman assisted for Tony Ralston’s goal at the weekend.

This will be no easy task for Celtic tonight, especially away from home but Jablonec are nothing more than an organised physical side, Celtic have the better players and if they execute their gameplan there are goals to be had this evening.

Players of FK Jablonec attend the training prior to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round soccer match FK Jablonec vs Celtic in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic, August 4, 2021. Photo/Radek Petrasek

As ever all eyes will be on our performance out of possession, alongside conceding and defending set pieces. Perhaps the experience and organisational abilities of both Joe Hart and Carl Starfelt may see Celtic offer the support some encouragement when it comes to our long-standing Achilles heel. Yet even if there isn’t a quick fix just yet, and Celtic do concede, the Hoops should have more than enough to get their noses in front in the first leg and complete the job when we get back to Glasgow. I’d be expecting at least a 2-1 win tonight and with it Ange Postecoglou’s overdue first competitive win as Celtic manager.

Niall J

Watch Joe Hart’s Celtic Fan Media Conference below…

About Author

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 finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

Comments are closed.