Apprehension about what awaits them at Celtic Park tonight would be understandable from Borussia Monchengladbach. Andre Schubert is missing five of his first picks – injuries to strike trio Thorgan Hazard, Raffael and Josip Drmic, compounded by a muscle problem depriving him of defensive playmaker Andreas Christensen and illness that has counted Fabian Johnston out.
On top of that, the Germans will be taking to the pitch at a Parkhead pumped up more than ever – a fact assured after the pay-off for such frenzy last time was the point against Manchester City that has set Celtic up for a shoot-out with the Germans for the third place from Group C that secures European football after Christmas.
Yet, if Schubert was a man that should be worried, he sought to exude a relaxed air, laughing and joking in the pre-match press conference at Celtic Park last night and presenting the need to rely on winger Andre Hahn as a central attacking option as a plus in the cauldron that awaits his team against hyped-up hosts.
“We are going to go into the game with a lot of aggression. We are going to meet with a lot of passion from the fans,” said the 45-year-old. “Hahn has a monster mentality and we need 11 of those against Celtic if we are to get a result. This will be a big challenge but we need to make an impact and be aggressive. It is always going to be difficult without key players – in attack and defence. These guys who are missing score a lot of goals. But we have good players to come in and we believe they can do well.”
Schubert identified Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers’ signings as the main threats to his team. “Celtic are very strong on the flanks. They have a number of dangerous strikers like Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair,” he said. “Sinclair is a very dangerous player, particularly in one-against-one situations. Set pieces against this team are also very difficult to defend.”
In seeking to make their own “quality count”, Gladbach will lean heavily on midfielder Christoph Kramer, a World Cup winner with Germany in 2014.
The 25-year-old was a little irked when asked if he remembered the occasion in Rio, wherein he had to be substituted in the first half following a head knock that it was reported caused him to ask the referee: “Is this the final?”
“Of course I remember the final now,” said Kramer, who was asked if that atmosphere at Celtic might compare after he revealed he had watched Celtic fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone against Liverpool in 2003. He knows not just the stadium but the team he will play tonight have a “unique” element.
“Scottish football isn’t as good as German football but Celtic is special,” he said. “They are a very good team and we have seen that against Manchester City. They can do that against anyone in Europe. They are not a typical Scottish team, they are a Champions League team. There is no favourite for the game. It is 50-50.” t