It would be typical, just typical, if Celtic put in their best performance in weeks against A.C. Milan this Thursday.
In front of an empty San Siro, Celtic should still absolutely give the Rossoneri a go. Anything like a spirited display against the Italian giants would surely give a little hope to suffering Celts.
Milan were turned over 3-0 by Lille in the Guiseppe Meazza in early November. Despite their resurgence as a title contender in Serie A, they’re there to be got at. Here’s what Celtic can do to restore a bit of pride.
Shoot from distance
Italian goalkeeping prodigy Gianluigi Donnarumma may be the next Buffon, but he’s having a difficult run of form. Celtic would do well to test him as much as they can.
Against Lille, they conceded three avoidable goals, the pick of which came from hat-trick hero Yusuf Yazici in the 55th minute.
Enjoying acres of space, the Turkish midfielder’s shot was helped in by a limp Donnarumma wrist as Lille took a two goal lead away to the Italians.
In that match, Lille enjoyed 5 counter attacks and 6 opportunities from open play against Milan (via WhoScored?).
In the 1-1 draw last week, Lille created 13 attempts, 9 on which were from open play. Clearly, the Rossoneri don’t like fast players coming at them. Peppering the A.C. goal with plenty of shots may give Celtic some joy.
Additionally, A.C. Milan have conceded from two penalties in their last six matches, against Udinese and Lille, which indicates a tendency to make rash decisions under pressure.
The first goal Verona scored could’ve just as easily been Celtic defending. Donnarumma does reasonably well against a header from an out-swinging corner, but none of the Milan defenders take responsibility for clearing the ball. Chaos ensues. Goal Verona.
If Celtic can make something happen from set-pieces, it will require a shake-up. Ryan Christie’s deliveries haven’t hit the mark of late, while Laxalt is an accomplished crosser of the ball. Against his parent club, it might be worth seeing what the Uruguayan international can do from dead ball situations.
Failing that, Celtic need to get bodies into the box and pressure the Milan defence. Lille’s penalty, in the 3-0 win, came from a speculative throw-in and clumsy defending. That’s something to exploit. If Neil Lennon is in charge for the tie (which looks to be the case at the time of writing), he should emphasise this to his team.
Play without fear
Yes, A.C. Milan have been indomitable domestically. Again, though; they’ve already been trounced in this Europa League group. It could easily happen again.
Celtic seem to play best under duress. With expectations as low as they’ve been in years, Lennon and his fractured team could enjoy underdog status. The pressure being off might be an advantage.
There’s nothing for Celtic to play for in Europe any more. However, rather than seeing our games at the San Siro and home to Lille as a chore, they should be treated as an opportunity.
While it would be frustrating in its own way to see Celtic win when progression from Group H is out of the question, it would at least do the team some good to give a hearty display against impressive European opponents.
Far from being meaningless, Lennon could treat these ties as an opportunity to tinker with his XI, and really attack on the big stage.
I mean, why not? There’s nothing to lose. Bloodying the noses of established competition would do Lennon’s own managerial chances some good and at least bring back a little confidence to the first team.