Celtic success in Alkmaar proves Manuel Pellegrini anger is over the top

By David Walton

September 14, 2021

When Celtic travelled to AZ Alkmaar, not much was made of the prep time both sides had ahead of the contest.

Celtic were playing St Mirren five days beforehand in the Premiership in what was a rout of Jim Goodwin’s side. Celtic then quickly had to make the journey to Alkmaar for the crunch second leg of their Europa League playoff tie.

However, AZ had a lot more time to prepare. In fact, they had a full eight days to get themselves up to scratch ahead of their hosting of the Hoops. This was due to the fact the Dutch FA allowed them the weekend off to give them a better chance of European progression.

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But they still failed to get the job done. Celtic simply didn’t seem to tire as they continued to defend resolutely in the Netherlands. Despite Alkmaar having over a week to prepare, they didn’t look any more threatening than they did at Celtic Park in the first leg.

Meanwhile, Real Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini hasn’t been in the best of moods recently. Before last night’s 2-1 win against Granada, he was left fuming with the La Liga schedule which had his side playing less than 72 hours before Celtic’s arrival in Andalusia [Scottish Sun]. The Hoops, meanwhile, played on Saturday against Ross County.

Therefore, Celtic were given an extra two days to prepare for the match. Thus, as is the narrative being bandied about, the Hoops now have the advantage.

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AZ Alkmaar couldn’t overcome Celtic despite having over a week to gear up

But the reality is that it means nothing. Only Pellegrini can tell you whether this is mind games or not. Whether it’s him trying to get into Celtic heads or push a certain narrative to release pressure from his players.

There certainly comes a time when you have to question his motive. He’s a manager who’s managed to keep hold of all but one of his best players in the summer. Not to mention they added a handful of players to help them with their schedule load.

So Betis will have no problem with the quick turnover. They have a squad built for it.

Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images

Pellegrini is used to situations like this too. He was involved with Malaga in the UCL back when they were having to play on Sunday and then on Tuesdays. Three-day gaps are hardly irregular.

We’ll see what Thursday night brings. But the success in Alkmaar showed that some extra prep time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What’s important is that the team carries out its game-plan effectively.

And let’s not kid ourselves, Betis will have their own plan in place.

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