OLI BURKE reckons that his Celtic team-mates have a point to prove in the impressive Mestalla Stadium on Thursday evening and that they intend to restore some pride after their collective disappointment at under-performing in last week’s 2-0 home defeat to Valencia.
Around 10,000 Celtic supporters will make the trip to the Spanish city despite the away allocation being restricted to 2500. Expect the rest to join in and make friends with the locals and show the likes of Kris Boyd that we are indeed regarded as being ‘the best fans in the world’ – on that point e-tims this morning are suggesting that the coin thrower at the weekend might NOT have been a Celtic supporter at all but a Kilmarnock supporter.
“It is definitely about pride,” Ali Burke said yesterday in his media interview ahead of the trip to Spain. “We have to go there and show we are capable and show what we can do.
“Fingers crossed we can get a result and then see what happens.mThe boys are all really looking forward to going there. Obviously we were beaten in the first leg but we will all get behind each other and hopefully we can kick on.”
Burke never really got his chance to shine last week. He seemed to make the right runs on the shoulder of Valencia defenders but his Celtic team-mates seemed reluctant to play the forward pass and instead played safe and tried to keep possession by going backwards. It was a timid approach that was to cost Celtic dearly as Valencia picked us off twice to score on counters.
Burke though has taken it all in and reckons he can benefit from the experience.
“I learned a lot playing against those kinds of players. They were obviously very big lads and they showed how good they can be.
“It was very difficult up there on my own but I think it’s about me waiting for my opportunity when the boys get on the ball.
“I have to be in the right positions and create the right runs as much as I can. They were the better side the other night but we need to pick heads up and have a go at them in the second leg.
“It was an amazing expedience for me to play at Celtic Park in a big European game. It’s a privilege to be a Celtic player, with massive crowds and great fans.
“This is a huge stage for me. I really enjoyed it – for a while. It was pretty sad how it turned out and I was pretty down afterwards. It’s about picking yourselves up to go again.
“It was a really tough night. I was gutted, really. Credit to them, they are a good side and they played very well.
“But we know can do much better than the other night. It was so disappointing but we need to focus on the return and hopefully we can get a result.”
Burke acknowledged that Valencia is considerably higher a standard of opponent that he’s faced domestically since joining Celtic in the January window, but he remains optimistic that Celtic can get a result in the Mestalla.
“The quality is a lot better. They move the ball really well, their organisation is very good, they shifted us and moved us very well. They pressed us and their formation really worked.
“I am sure we can improve though,” the 21 year old striker said.
“We showed signs we can penetrate and get in behind them. We created a couple of chances and hopefully this time we can get a bit closer and stick a few of them in the back of the net.
“We actually started the game really well and showed what we can do. I don’t know what happened after that but there were things we saw that suggests we can hurt them. We need to come together as a team,” Burke stated.