DEFENDER Mikael Lustig conceded on Monday that Celtic’s best chance of scoring in a Champions League group of imposing quality lies in the conversion of set pieces.
At the same time, he reminded his team-mates heading to Italy for tonight’s clash with AC Milan to expect corners and free kicks to descend into wrestling matches.
The Swede emphasised that he was not labelling Celtic a one-dimensional force by focusing on the set pieces, and promoted the abilities of players such as James Forrest, Anthony Stokes, Kris Commons and Derk Boerrigter on the ground.
However, Milan, Ajax and especially Barcelona, beaten in Glasgow last season, will fear Celtic this autumn fundamentally on the basis of the accuracy, guile and brute force that they bring to their rehearsed dead-ball routines.
“Last season we got a number of goals through set-pieces. We worked really hard on them and we got some really good service. Hopefully we can do that again,” said Lustig at Celtic’s training base in Lennoxtown.
“I think we have a chance in the San Siro. In both Barcelona games we caused them problems. We can use set-pieces and we feel we can score.
“We won’t just be relying on set plays, we want to have some of the ball as well,” he added. “We want to create chances from open play as well. We’re going there to look for some points. It will be really hard but in our head we want to play.”
Any purists within the Celtic support still shudder when they think of Juventus and the chaos of last season’s last-16 battle at Parkhead, won 3-0 by the Italians after they stifled the aforementioned set-piece threat by simply wrapping their arms around any player trying to win space in the penalty area.
“Yes, it will probably be the same,” said Lustig as he contemplated another encounter with Italian cynicism. “The Italian players know every trick in the book. But we will know the way to play better than we did before we faced Juventus.
“In my opinion at set pieces we should have had at least two or three penalties. But it’s up to the referee.
“Do we need to be more streetwise? Yes, absolutely – if someone holds you, you need to be strong and push them away before the set-piece is taken. Against Juventus it was strange.
“I was looking at the referee but he was focusing on the ball. It’s up to the referee to know if it’s a penalty or not.”