Former Celtic and AC Milan midfielder Massimo Donati has hyped up the Parkhead atmosphere, but says it’s disappointing the supporters will be locked out of the meeting between his two ex clubs.
Stefano Pioli’s Milan travel to Scotland looking to secure an early march in their Europa League group, whilst the Hoops will once again be looking to take maximum points from their Euro home games this season.
Donati played in Celtic’s last victory over Milan back in 2007, when Carlo Ancelotti’s star-studded European Champions came to Parkhead and lost 2-1. The Italian signed from AC the previous summer, and would go on to score another memorable goal with a last-minute winner against Shakhtar Donetsk on matchday five of the Champions League that year.
Therefore, Italian coach Donati has experienced the power of the Parkhead atmosphere on more than one occasion. And, as quoted by the Herald, the former Gordon Strachan signing bigged up how incredible the Celtic Park energy is.
“The atmosphere at Celtic Park on European nights is absolutely fantastic. I had played for big clubs like Milan, Parma, Sampdoria and Atalanta in Italy before I came to Scotland. But there was still something special about it. Many great players have said so over the years and they are right.
“When you play at Celtic Park you have something more. That night against Milan, we played 12 against 11 because we had the fans with us. It’s not nice that there will be no fans there to see a team like Milan and a player like Zlatan. But it is part of life now. We have to accept that because of the situation in the world.
“Champions League nights are so special for every player. I was honoured to play for Celtic in that competition. I had very good moments, when we beat AC Milan and when we beat Shakhtar Donetsk. Hopefully, the current players can enjoy the same sort of feeling on Thursday night.”
Lack of fans in Europe bound to be a real challenge
There’s no denying it – our home form was essential in last season’s Europa League. For the most part, we started to make Celtic Park a fortress again after some damaging defeats there under Brendan Rodgers.
Of course, we won’t exaggerate it. The Champions League qualifying defeat to Cluj and the Europa League last-32 loss to Copenhagen proved that we still had a long way to go before we could consistently hold off the best in Glasgow’s East End.
However, what we did have in brilliant wins against Cluj, Lazio, and Rennes respectively was a boisterous support. Already this season, we’ve seen just how big that can be, or the lack of it.
Had Parkhead been packed against Ferencvaros, it would’ve taken a brave supporter to bet against us going through. However, the flat atmosphere led to the Hungarians winning pretty comfortably in the end, with Celtic struggling to create any clear-cut chances.
It was the same on Saturday in our defeat to Rangers without fans. Where as normally we would’ve been hammering the door down in the final 20 minutes, a lifeless Celtic Park saw the game just dwindle away without incident.
So having a top side like Serie A leaders Milan come to Parkhead is going to be a serious tester for Lennon’s side. All we can do as supporters is hope we rise to the occasion without needing our 12th man.