ACCORDING to club legend and first-team coach Danny McGrain, Celtic can win three of their remaining four Champions League fixtures to resuscitate hopes of emulating last season’s achievement and qualifying for the last 16.
Neil Lennon’s side are sitting bottom of Group H after losing their opening two matches against Barcelona and AC Milan. Celtic have been dealt a further blow with the news that full-back Adam Matthews will miss what is left of the group stage with a dislocated shoulder. Skipper Scott Brown is also automatically suspended for the next match against Ajax after being sent off last week against Barcelona and could face a longer spell on the sidelines if the Uefa disciplinary decide to extend the ban.
A former full-back himself, McGrain yesterday described the loss of Matthews as a “blow, but not a big blow”. McGrain explained that Celtic can still call upon Mikael Lustig to fill that position, although Matthews has also been pushed into a midfield role in Champions League fixtures.
“Adam is obviously a quality player and we’ll miss his marauding runs up the line, but Mikael Lustig is equally as good as him and Efe Ambrose can also play there [at full-back] too,” said McGrain. “We’re not naked for right-backs.”
McGrain does not see why Celtic cannot still qualify as runners-up in the group, with a double header to come against Ajax and then AC Milan due at Celtic Park on 26 November. Celtic then travel to face Barcelona in the Nou Camp in their final Group H fixture on 11 December – a maximum of 12 points still available.
“We’ve got to aim for second place,” said McGrain “You’ve got to aim high. Is that realistic? We have to beat Ajax twice and AC Milan here. The three matches are winnable for nine points, so it’s possible. It might be enough. If we do beat Ajax and then go over there it’s going to be hard in Amsterdam. We know it. We’re not stupid to think it will be easy. There are no easy games.”