AZ Alkmaar's week off would make Celtic victory even more impressive
If Celtic are to win in the Netherlands tonight, there’s one big decision made by the Dutch FA that would make it even more impressive.
Celtic travel to AZ Alkmaar’s AFAS Stadium this evening looking to secure progression into the Europa League group stages. Should we do so, it will mark incredible progress under Ange Postecoglou even at this early stage of his tenure.
Over the last week or so, the Hoops boss has consistently spoken about the need to manage his squad through a massively busy period of games. Over the last month, Celtic have played a total of nine competitive matches. All this whilst relying on a relatively small core group of players.
Our latest came on Saturday in a 6-0 hammering of St Mirren at Celtic Park. Whilst the win was great for momentum, it wasn’t great for the legs. It was another 90 minutes, and a weekend we could’ve done with having off given our recent hectic schedule.
Well that’s something the Dutch FA afford Alkmaar. A team who had only played one competitive match in the campaign before last Thursday’s first-leg.
Indeed, Alkmaar were allowed the weekend off. They haven’t played since last week’s 2-0 win for the Hoops at Celtic Park. The Dutch authorities tend to allow clubs to take time before European matches if they can afford it.
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Celtic looking for first win in the Netherlands in 20 years
For Celtic, it makes tonight’s challenge all the more difficult. Whilst Postecoglou’s men are only five days removed from their win against the Buddies at the weekend.
Celtic’s last win in the Netherlands came back in 2001 in a memorable 3-1 win over Ajax under Martin O’Neill. If we’re to record another famous night in Alkmaar this evening, it’ll be done against all the odds.
That’s not to say that the Hoops will struggle to hurt AZ. Far from it. We’ve shown we have the attacking threat to shoot them down so long as we remain composed at the back. But we’ll be up against a top Eredivisie side who have had over a week to prepare and are ready to come out of the traps.
Celtic have to be both mindful and respectful of that. Whilst we want to play the game on the front foot whenever possible this evening, we have to be aware of the energy levels AZ will bring to the game. Assisted by the Dutch FA’s helping hand.
When the tie was first drawn, we all thought progression was optimistic at best. After all, this is a step up even from Midtjylland, who knocked us out of the UCL qualifiers. However, Postecoglou has managed to instill so much belief into the club that we’re expectant heading into tonight.
But it’s important we respect the task ahead of us this evening. And given Alkmaar’s weekend off, progression tonight would be even more impressive than it would’ve been.