CELTIC’s 2-0 win at Motherwell on Saturday was the ideal preparation for tomorrow night’s Champions League tie in Moscow, according to James Forrest.
The winger believes that both the way his team played and the fact the result put them top of the SPL have given their morale a significant boost, but warned that the match on Spartak’s artificial pitch would pose different, and more severe, problems.
“It was a good performance and a good three points,” said Forrest, whose roving role played a significant part in the undoing of the Motherwell defence. “We wanted to go into the game on Tuesday night top of the league and that’s what we’ve done.
“This is the first time this season we’ve played with that formation and it really paid off for us. The attacking players were able to go and do what they wanted, and we created a lot of chances. We could’ve scored a lot more goals. It helped me because I wasn’t set in one position, I was allowed to move about. It’s harder to be marked if you are allowed to move about.
“It was a really good performance, but we know it’s going to be a different game in Moscow and we just need to focus now on Tuesday. Nobody gives us a chance – I think everybody expects to us to get beat in every game. But we did well against Benfica and hopefully we can keep surprising teams.”
The build-up to big games is often dominated by injury worries. As the team left Glasgow Airport for Moscow yesterday, there remained concerns over the fitness of full-back Adam Matthews. He missed the win over Motherwell because of an ankle injury and was seen walking through the airport with his right foot in a cast. “It is really a precautionary measure,” explained Celtic’s assistant manager, Johan Mjallby. “We are still hoping he will be in the squad, but it’ll be touch and go.”
Aside from Matthews, though, Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been given little but good news for the Spartak match, with Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley both coming off the bench at the weekend after spells on the treatment table. Israel midfielder Beram Kayal was an unused substitute against Motherwell. “Sammy is really important for us, especially in Europe,” added Mjallby. “He has legs, which is important when you are playing against top teams.
“It’s a bonus for us to have him, Beram and Joe back as it makes the squad much stronger.”
While the Celtic players were able to look forward to European action, Motherwell’s Keith Lasley was simply glad to see the back of a week in which his team had also been beaten by Rangers in the League Cup and conceded two late goals to draw 3-3 at Aberdeen. “From the moment they got their first goal it was all Celtic,” he said. “I have to be honest about that.
“It was a difficult day for us. It’s been a disappointing week all in. We felt we should have held on to our lead up at Aberdeen, then going to Rangers and again not a great performance. We came out against Celtic determined to put that right, and for the first 20 minutes I felt we were heading towards that – there wasn’t a lot between the teams. But the first goal was massive and from then on Celtic moved up a gear.”
Now that his team have been displaced from the top of the table by Celtic, Lasley accepted that trying to stay with the champions for the rest of the season would not be easy.