Kevin De Bruyne, the player widely hailed as the key factor in Manchester City’s perfect winning start to the season under Pep Guardiola, has been ruled out of tomorrow night’s Champions League showdown at Celtic Park.
The Belgian attacking midfielder suffered a hamstring injury in City’s 3-1 Premier League victory at Swansea City and is expected to be sidelined for at least four weeks. De Bruyne’s absence will be regarded as at least a slight enhancement to Celtic’s prospects of upsetting the odds and bringing Guardiola’s 100 per cent record as City boss to an end.
The 25-year-old has been City’s outstanding performer since the start of the campaign, even being hailed by Guardiola as second only to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi in terms of ability and influence.
City have won their first ten matches in all competitions under Guardiola and victory in Glasgow tomorrow would see them equal the all-time record for English clubs, set by Tottenham’s legendary double-winning side of 1960-61, of consecutive victories at the start of a season.
It is the latest instalment of the ‘Battle of Britain’ fixtures in European football’s elite club competition and Celtic icon Bertie Auld believes Brendan Rodgers’ side are capable of springing a surprise.
Auld still recalls Celtic’s European Cup semi-final triumph against Leeds United in 1970 as one of the high points of his storied career.
“It was one of the best experiences I had as a Celtic player,” said Auld, a member of the Parkhead club’s Lisbon Lions side who lifted the trophy three years earlier.
“We had played Leeds in a lot of friendly matches and testimonials before that and I remember big Jack Charlton saying he would need a bigger mantlepiece to hold all the photos of games where they had beaten Celtic.
“But when it mattered in a European Cup semi-final, we beat them home and away. We weren’t favourites for that tie, just like Celtic certainly aren’t favourites on Wednesday night, but it shows you what can happen.”
In the 50th anniversary season of Celtic’s 1967 European Cup success, Auld rues the gap in resources and quality which now exists between the Scottish champions and the leading English clubs.
“I would never have imaged that 50 years on from Lisbon there would be this gulf between us and the money English clubs can spend,” he added. “We had some of the best players in the world in our team back then. Those days are gone but Celtic are still a big club with a great support. Anything can happen against any team at Celtic Park.”