Kristoffer Ajer’s Cluj display certainly frustrated the Celtic fans, but that night back in August annoyed the Norwegian himself.
Celtic go into tonight’s clash with the Romanian champions looking for Europa League revenge. Any player who says otherwise is surely just trying to be level-headed. But the truth is the 4-3 defeat at Celtic Park against tonight’s rivals is still a haunting result.
Ajer was part of a shocking back-line that night that consisted of Jozo Simunovic, Hatem Abd Elhamed, and Callum McGregor respectively. Three second-half goals were lost in comical circumstances, and the Hoops crashed out of the Champions League just like that.
Many Celtic players have been coming out over the week and discussing the match a couple of months ago. For Ajer, however, he said in the Scottish Sun that he’s really looking forward to tonight’s contest.
“Obviously, they got the better of us at Celtic Park not long ago and it was an annoying night for us. We have to do better this time and get the points we need.
“You always want to concede the least amount of goals possible, so to lose four against them, especially at home, wasn’t good enough. We’ve looked through all the parts of that night and we’ve learned from it.
“We’ve looked through what we did wrong against Cluj in the recent game and the backroom staff have worked really hard by showing us footage and pointing out how we can improve. We’re really looking forward to this game.”
Celtic can’t be lured into what cost them last time
There was, 100%, a massive air of complacency around Celtic Park two months ago. When Cluj rocked up after failing to put us to the sword in Romania, everyone expected to go through. Did we underestimate Cluj? Just about everyone from fan to manager probably did.
And no wonder either. They showed absolutely nothing at their home ground to suggest they would produce the Parkhead performance they did. Billel Omrani certainly didn’t look like a striker capable of bagging a brace. Ciprian Deac and Mihai Bordeianu hardly looked threatening either.
We all know we made mistakes on the night. Scott Brown’s clumsy hand-ball to Scott Bain’s woeful attempt at a save for the third goal. Not to mention McGregor losing his man for Cluj’s opener.
But they proved, unlike many sides in Scotland, that they can punish us if we give them the chance. Being overly-complacent cost us the last time, and we have to make sure it doesn’t this time around.
You won’t find many Celtic fans who think we won’t win tonight. The players will likely think that too. That’s absolutely fine, and it’s the correct mindset to have. But it’s just important we all recognise that we aren’t up against any mugs tonight.
If Cluj bag their second win at Parkhead in just two months, it would be historic for their football club. We have all the motivation in the world going into this one, but Cluj have plenty to play for themselves. The players have to be ready for the aggression that could come with that.