Former Rangers midfielder Alex Rae has opened up on one man Celtic have to watch this Thursday night – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Rae worked with Alex McLeish at Genk back in 2014. At the time, Milinkovic-Savic was plying his trade in Belgium before moving on to Serie A in the summer of 2015.
Since then, Milinkovic-Savic has made 173 appearances for Lazio, and managed to nab 33 goals from a deep midfield position.
And Rae, having worked with him at Genk, has opened up on what threat he’ll offer Celtic on Thursday night. Speaking in the Scottish Sun, this is what the ex-Rangers star had to say.
“Every day we’d get the team together and have shooting competitions. He had a laser shot and you wouldn’t want to give him too much time and space from distance. The power he had was unbelievable.
“Sergej had a zest for the game. I used to watch Sergej shoot and burst the net. I’m not exaggerating. This big guy was frightening with the power he generated. I can categorically say if Milinkovic-Savic connects with one he’ll take big Fraser Forster into the net with it!
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“One of the things big Alex McLeish and I identified was that he was someone who wanted to get forward. The middle to front stuff came very easy for him because he was keen to score.”
Celtic won’t plan on giving Lazio time to operate in the final third
If Lazio were expected to dominate us at Parkhead on Thursday night, this would be more of a concern. The fact that Savic has an incredible shot on him, of course, isn’t something Neil Lennon will ignore either.
However, you have to wonder how often the defensive-midfielder will actually bomb forward. Lazio could be making a key mistake if they get too adventurous. Pushing their DM forward and allowing Ryan Christie space to operate would be suicidal.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he won’t have time to get forward. There will be times when Lazio have a period of pressure, and only then will we see what Milinkovic-Savic plans to do. If he does decide to join the attacks and get into shooting range, then we have to be wary.
However, there’s no point in worrying about it. This is a game where we have to be in the ascendancy and taking the game to Lazio. We would be looking for Callum McGregor to stamp his influence on the game more than worrying about Milinkovic-Savic.
But the warning from Rae is clear. If Lazio get on the front-foot, shut them down quickly. It’s important we don’t give any of their game-changers time to operate. Milinkovic-Savic falls into the same category as the likes of Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa respectively.
It’s good to know where the dangers in this Lazio team are. Celtic, however, have to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and make sure their flair-players are swarmed over.