GORDON Strachan believes Celtic can not only win at Ajax tomorrow night, but also go on to defeat AC Milan at home in three weeks’ time.
Those two results would take the Scottish champions on to nine points in Group H, giving them a good chance of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League.
“I think Celtic can win tomorrow and I think they can beat AC Milan,” Strachan said yesterday. “That’s not just hoping: I definitely think they can beat them. They’re a better team than Ajax at this moment. The Ajax team will develop – they look like a youth team, I don’t think anybody had a shave in that team. When you look at them and the Juventus team Celtic played a year before, they were men.
“At the moment I think Celtic have the strength and the know-how to definitely get a result there, because Ajax are not in the best of form just now. And they can definitely beat AC Milan.”
Besides wishing the best for the club he managed for four years from 2005, Strachan knows that the more successful Celtic are, the more that Scotland will benefit. “There’s absolutely no doubt about it: Celtic’s experience in the Champions League has helped Scottish international football. Thinking back five or six years ago when Rangers were on a good run and got to the Uefa Cup final, that added to the Scotland squad as well. Apart from Celtic, the [current Scotland] players don’t have European football, which is a pity. I’m sure if they had it, they would definitely get better.
“It’s not an arrogance, it’s a confidence you feel. When you might have thought ‘Am I good enough?’, ‘Yes, I am good enough’. I would love to get players with that experience staying in Europe longer. How you deal with it – things like travelling all the time and getting used to having less training sessions. Dealing with what people perceive as tiredness but it’s not. Once you’re a top, top player you just get used to playing all the time.”
Meanwhile, Celtic manager Neil Lennon is convinced his side can create chances at the Amsterdam Arena in their “pivotal” Champions League clash.
Lennon said on Celtic’s official website: “The game in Amsterdam is pivotal. It’s a huge game and we started working on it as soon as Saturday’s game finished.
“If we can play like we did in Milan, then we’ve got a good chance. But you can never predict these games. Ajax are a class side, very fluid with the ball and they will create chances, but I think we can create chances, too.
“We’ll have to be positive, and to get something out of the game would give us a great chance in the last two games. I think the atmosphere will be fantastic, but it’s the Champions League and I don’t think the players need any extra incentive to play there.”