Celtic go the highlands tomorrow following Tuesday’s 7-0 defeat at the hands of Barcelona in the Nou Camp. Brendan Rodgers will have needed to nurse some bruised egos back at Lennoxtown this week in order to refocus the players on the domestic priorities and remind them they may be streets behind Barcelona but they remain streets ahead of the Scottish Premiership. Celtic are 4 wins from 4 out of the blocks in the league meanwhile Inverness have struggled taking just 4 points from their first 5 outings.
Tuesday’s defeat may well serve as a much needed reality check for Celtic. The team were flying high after Champions League qualification and a great start to the title defence topped off by an emphatic 5-1 derby win. However, being played off the park on Tuesday highlights just how far away we are from competing with the top teams in Europe. The team still has numerous flaws at that level, both mentally and technically. I think we showed Barcelona far too much respect and far too many of the players were overawed by simply just being at the Nou Camp. We stood off Barcelona like rabbits in headlights and did not lay a glove on them. Of course they are the best team on the continent and with a front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar they are more than capable of unloading a 7-0 on most teams in Europe. However, Celtic seemed mentally as well as technically inferior, Dembele’s penalty underlined this. You can’t miss those chances at that level, it was a really poor penalty and allowed Barcelona to put the game beyond us at 2-0 just minutes later. We didn’t keep the ball well enough and while Barcelona’s counter-press can be smothering at times, we surrendered possession far too easily to expect to take anything from the game. The gulf between Celtic and the rest of Scotland contrasted with the gulf between Celtic and the top teams in Europe is extremely worrying for years to come. Having said that, though, there are a lot of easy improvements that can be made. Mentally the team has to believe they can compete at that level, that is the first step for any team. You’ve got believe you belong at that level. This is something we will see improve, I hope, in the home games at Celtic Park because the onus is on us as the home team to assert ourselves and the crowd can make magical things happen. It’s also clear, as if we needed confirmation, that our battle in this group will be with Borussia Monchengladbach for 3rd place after their 4-0 defeat at the Empty-had to Manchester City.
Sunday’s game will ride on how well the players can recover from Barcelona. If they have cleared their minds of it then I expect a comfortable victory in Inverness. Leigh Griffiths will miss out for the 3rd game in a row as he battles back to fitness from his calf strain. Brendan will go back to a form of 4-3-3 after Tuesday’s 5-4-1. Will be interesting to see if Gamboa gets his first league start after a tough debut the other night. I also hope Patrick Roberts keeps his place from Tuesday because he got very little of the ball on Tuesday and it would be unfair if he was punished for that by returning to the bench tomorrow.
Of our last six meetings with Inverness, we’ve won the last four. The only defeat coming in that Scottish Cup tie in April last year. If we play well I can’t see anything less than a victory by 2 or more goals.
Last 6 meetings:
20/02/2016 – Celtic 3-0 Inverness
29/11/2015 – Inverness 1-3 Celtic
15/08/2015 – Celtic 4-2 Inverness
24/05/2015 – Celtic 5-0 Inverness
19/04/2015 – Inverness 3-2 Celtic
11/04/2015 – Inverness 1-1 Celtic
Predicted XI: De Vries, Lustig, Toure, Sviatchenko, Tierney; Brown, Bitton; Roberts, Rogic, Sinclair: Dembele.