“The one thing I have noticed about Livingston,” Ange Postecoglou

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou spoke to the media this afternoon ahead of Sunday’s midday kick-off in West Lothian against Livingston in the Scottish Premiership. The Champions have four league matches to go ahead of the break for the World Cup and on top of that the final Champions League Group F match against the Champions of Europe Real Madrid on Wednesday night. Here’s how it all panned out…

Q: A squad update – how is Jota? He was training, wasn’t he?

Ange Postecoglou: “Yes. Everybody got through Tuesday night with no problems. Jota’s trained all week, Carl (Starfelt) and Stephen Welsh trained and apart from Callum (McGregor) everyone else is fit in terms of full training, but in terms of match fitness, some of those guys are not ready to start and apart from Callum everyone is ready to go.”

Callum McGregor (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: You are coming to the end of the European cycle so can your squad be stronger domestically after the World Cup, especially with less travel etc?

Ange Postecoglou: “I still think it will be a little bit congested anyway. We still have cup games to play. I think there is a rescheduled fixture that is in there against Livingston, but we have gotten through this period so far not too badly and we still have five games before the break. I have rotated the team a fair bit through this process so that we can manage to be in the different competitions.

Ange Postecoglou. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“The fact that we have got the majority of the group healthy and available is good for us but we have still got to navigate these five games. After the break, we still have a fair bit of the season to go in terms of the league and both cups. We have got to be ready for that. It is still about making sure we finish this first section off as strong as we possibly can.”

Q: On the game on Sunday, you don’t need any reminders of the threat of Livingston after their result last weekend, what are you expecting from this one?

Ange Postecoglou: “It will be a tough game. It always is particularly at their place. Last year we went there early in the season and didn’t play well and we paid the price. On our second trip there we performed a lot better and it was a strong performance and we got the result.

James Forrest of Celtic scores the opening goal during the match at Tynecastle Photo Neil Hanna / Sportimage 

“They are a hard-working team and they are really hard to beat particularly at home. That is the challenge that is before us. Our form home and away in the league has been pretty consistent and our results certainly show that. We have got to try and play well and overcome them.”

Q: What threats does Livingston pose that other teams don’t? We saw them last weekend have a very disciplined performance defensively is that one of their main strengths? Is it their physicality and how good they can be at home what is it that you see specifically about Livingston?

Ange Postecoglou: “I think it is a combination of things. They are a really hard-working side which makes them hard to overcome. I think they have similar traits to us in the respect that we are also hard-working as well. The game tends to be played physically or with the sheer work rate then they provide that.

“Particularly at home with the pitch as well it is something that they are more comfortable with. Those are the challenges that you have to overcome. What is more important is what we can do and what threats we can pose and the football we play. Within that context we know if we play well we will be hard to stop.”

Q: Is that the message you give to the players to continue playing your football or do you have to give them more words and tell them that this one is going to be more of a battle?

Ange Postecoglou: “No, mate. I don’t lie to you and I don’t lie to the players. What I say is what I say, and that is we’ve got to play our football because within our football all those things are there. Whatever the challenge is and we are not going to overcome it by changing our approach as that is not going to work for us.

“What works for us is the basic fundamentals that we want to lean on and that is working hard and trying to dominate the game and keeping possession and being really aggressive without the ball. When we do those things, irrespective of the opposition, home or away, we know we are a tough team to beat. That’s what we have got to deliver at the weekend.”

Q: Livingston manager David Martindale was saying that he loves to come up against yourself and the top teams in the league. He also mentioned there was more of a tactical battle that goes into these games and that most people don’t realise. What do you make of those comments going up against a team like Livingston?

Ange Postecoglou: “I can’t speak on David’s behalf but I think that is part of management. I often hear managers talking about playing the top sides and usually, that’s the top two sides and they put them in as one, but I think you would have to approach both of those games a little bit differently if you really want to be successful.

“The one thing I have noticed about Livingston is that they do put a lot of research and a lot of thought into who they are playing and taking the approach that affects them the most. We are no different and the one thing that we always do is respect every opponent irrespective of their form or their position on the ladder or whatever other conditions arise. We analyse them all and we understand what their potential strengths and weaknesses are and areas that we can exploit.

Tony Ralston. Photo Steve Welsh

“Within that context, it does not change the way we approach the game, and we certainly address those kinds of things with our players. Football is like that these days. You have so many tools, and there really is no excuse for not doing your homework and managers not coming up with tactical plans or putting in the research on how to stop any opposition.”

Q: A bit on the mental strength of your players. We have spoken about the physical aspect of your team but how pleasing was it last week that they had the mental strength to come through a game like that against Hearts?

Ange Postecoglou: “It is important. There is a physical toll and the fact that you have to be up for a game every three or four days. What has helped us is that we have been able to rotate the team a little bit which means guys coming in have that sort of freshness anyway in terms of wanting to perform well and this is their opportunity.

“I think that has helped us through this period. I was always conscious of the fact that there was no chance we would get through this schedule of games just relying on a core group of players. We would have sustained a lot more injuries. Our performances even if we didn’t get injuries would have tailed off with just the general fatigue of the players both mental and physical.

“The fact we have made four or five changes every game means that we have got new energy coming in, which means guys even if they are a little bit fatigued will get energy from the guys coming in. Within that context we are resting a few as well so I think that’s helped.

22nd October 2022. Greg Taylor of Celtic scores Celtics 4th goal during the cinch Premiership match at Tynecastle Photo Neil Hanna / Sportimage

“We have had some really strong performances in this cluster of games but there have also been some really challenging ones like Hearts last weekend and St Johnstone in the last minute where we have had to work awfully hard as well. I don’t think we would have found that energy and commitment if we had been playing with the same group of players throughout the whole bit.”

Q; Do you feel the players are getting to grips with the demands you put on them?

Ange Postecoglou: “I think there is a little bit of that, for sure. I felt last year was always going to be challenging, not just because of the way we play our football but because of the way train, it is very intense. For a lot of players, you can tell that even getting to the level of intensity for training was going to be a challenge for them.

“So you know, this time last year, we were down to the bare bones in terms of our squad. With the players that have remained, you can tell that their bodies have adjusted to the football and the way we want to play. We have also added to the squad with that knowledge as well.

19th December 2021; Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland; Scottish League Cup final, Hibernian versus Celtic: David Turnbull of Celtic pulls up with an injury and is checked over by Celtic medical staff

“We have a much stronger squad of players this year that we can call upon. I mean, last year, it was the likes of Kyogo and Turnbull who ended up getting really bad hamstring injuries. Altogether, they missed a lot of games. We have not had to go through that this year, so it is a combination of a stronger squad and players adjusting to the levels.”



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