THAT night when Celtic beat RB Leipzig 2-1 in the group stages of the Europa League was probably the highlight of the season so far and it also the reason why Celtic are still in the competition and are playing Valencia on Thursday night in the round of 32 knock-out stages of the competition.
And if Celtic can beat a top Bundesliga side – they were sitting in second spot at the time – then there’s no reason to doubt that we can’t do the same to a La Liga side if we play just as well. That is the logic that Callum McGregor is taking into the game anyway.
Last night on The Celtic Star we reported on what Brendan Rodgers thinks of McGregor and it is well worth a READ.
Now, Callum has been talking about the Valencia game and how he fancies our chances – if we play like we did in the RB Leipzig game.
“I think that the night we beat RB Leipzig provided the blueprint for us. If we can turn in a similar display against Valencia, we should be all right,” Calmac told the media.
“It’s about us being upbeat and wanting to push ourselves — and then we’ll see what happens.
“You realise that foreign opponents will be at a high level technically so we pretty much know what we’ll be coming up against.
“We’re moving up in class and the speed of thought has to improve and you also need to move the ball quicker.
“Just being in that type of environment makes you a better player. You know that Spanish clubs will play football and they’ll always really test you.
“They have come into a good bit of form recently but we’ve got to fancy our chances at Celtic Park.
“Our mindset has to be that we play without fear and just go out there and see what we can do.
“These European competitions are really tough, especially when you see the money that clubs are throwing about.
“Then you look at the draw for this round and see the quality of the teams who are playing in it. The standard is getting higher all the time.
“We know it’s not going to be easy but we have to go into it in a positive frame of mind.”
Celtic haven’t won a knock-out tie in a European competition for quite some time and this is something the McGregor would enjoy putting right.
“You have to go back to 2004 to find the last time we managed to win a knock-out tie.
“Getting through would represent progression for us season after season in Europe. You could probably say that this is a harder draw than last year against Zenit.
“But, then again, it’s good to test yourself. Having so many young Scottish players in the side, coming up against such strong opposition can only be a good thing for us.
“You want to test yourself against the very best and, by doing that, you should come out the other side as a better footballer.”
And one other curious thing Callum said. Rather than seeing it as an advantage in playing the away game first – that’s even UEFA’s plan when they format the competition – McGregor prefers being at home for the first leg.
“It probably helps us slightly. There’s a feelgood factor about Celtic Park. Everybody will be coming to this big European night urging us on to get a result.
“It’ll be similar to last season playing against Zenit when we got the win. Everyone is expecting the best from us, anticipating we’ll turn in a good performance.
“I reckon that if we can give a good account of ourselves on Thursday, people will be happy with that.”
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