Celtic’s team against Leipzig in Germany drew a lot of scrutiny at the time from supporters and the media.
Brendan Rodgers made several changes to the side that overcame Hibernian just four days previously. Jozo Simunovic, Eboue Kouassi, Cristian Gamboa, and Lewis Morgan all came into the fray. It was a patched up side that never looked like doing anything in Germany.
So that proved to be the case. Celtic went down weakly in Leipzig, losing 2-0 whilst being dominated all over the pitch. Odsonne Edouard got no service from the flair players, whilst the defence let in cheap goals as per usual in Europe.
So why did Rodgers make those changes to the side? The team looked poor on paper and never likely to get anything from the game. Leipzig came across as formidable enough without fielding a weakened team on their own turf.
The truth is, however, Celtic had huge domestic games coming up. It was an opportunity for the Parkhead side to truly find their form again. First up was a huge Betfred Cup semi-final against Hearts at Murrayfield. Defeat in that would’ve been unthinkable, whilst a victory could really kick-start Celtic domestically.
Celtic had to eat into the gap
Sure, Celtic had beaten St Johnstone and Hibernian in convincing fashion. In truth, however, they still hadn’t strung together a sufficient amount of domestic wins. Hearts were still sitting pretty at the top of the table, and Celtic had to eat into that advantage.
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Since the Leipzig defeat, however, Celtic have hammered home a ridiculous 13 goals in three matches. Added to that, they’ve shipped none. The likes of Filip Benkovic, Tom Rogic, and Mikael Lustig didn’t start against Leipzig, but have been heroic ever since.
All of a sudden, a massive surge of confidence is flowing through Celtic. They’ve won seven domestic games on the spin, and many have acknowledged that they’re now back to their best.
The only downside to that was allowing Leipzig to nab that victory and see Celtic drop to third in the Europa League group stages. That’s retrievable however, and Celtic go into the home game against RB with a chance to recover.
To sum up – Rodgers has been vindicated on what was a highly criticised decision. Resting those key men against Leipzig have seen them return and sweep Celtic to domestic ascendancy. It’s given a shot of energy through the club, and they continue to look forward with confidence.
The work is nowhere near done, however. Next up? Salvaging this Europa League mess.