Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor has confirmed that the players will fight for the jersey in Cluj despite having nothing to play for.
The Hoops go into tomorrow night’s match against Dan Petrescu’s side having already qualified for the Europa League last-32. We’ve also already topped the group too, after securing a stunning 13-points already in the competition.
Cluj, meanwhile, need to get something if they’re to qualify. Should Celtic manage to win in Romania, Petrescu’s side will be out if Lazio win in Rennes. So for us it’s a dead-rubber, but for Cluj it means everything.
However, that doesn’t mean we should expect that to show in the game itself. Speaking to the BBC, McGregor stated that the players will be giving their all for the club.
“There are no free hits at Celtic. You are always defending the badge and the club and the way we want to play – we are relentless with it as well.
“We don’t want to come off it for a game because we know how hard it is to get it back. We know Cluj will be highly motivated and, for us, we just want to continue this run of the 12 games in a row. I think it was a tough game over there in the Champions League qualifiers.
Celtic fans not traveling to Romania to see half-hearted performance
McGregor has sent out the right message to the supporters here. First off, those who are booked up to go to Romania aren’t heading over to see a Celtic team who isn’t fussed.
Like the midfielder says, we have a 12-game winning run to protect. Nobody wants to just give that up so that we can effectively have an off-night. If Cluj are to go through, we have to make sure it’s because they’ve earned the right to on the night.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be changes. McGregor has already played 31 games this season for the Hoops and we’re not even half-way through the campaign yet (Transfermarkt). Players like him may end up being rested with Neil Lennon choosing this game as a chance to see other squad players.
But that doesn’t mean that the performance has to be poor or low-key. At the end of the day, we want to cement our first-place position in the group with a win over the second-best side.
It’s also worth remembering that Cluj knocked us out of the Champions League back in August. What revenge it could be if we ended up doing the same to them in the Europa tomorrow night. That won’t be at the forefront of the players’ minds, but it’s another reason to turn up.
At Celtic, we just don’t like losing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high-stakes game, a dead-rubber, or even a friendly. Losing is just never an option. McGregor’s words, therefore, are comforting to hear.