There are times over the past decade when the hyping of the Celtic Park sizzle on European nights has strayed into the hackneyed. But in the titanic encounter against Manchester City, the beguiling alchemy fuelled by supporter frenzy within the stadium actually lived up to the legend, writes Andrew Smith.
Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton doesn’t presume that, because his team stood tall against Pep Guardiola’s side to earn a 3-3 draw, “a repeat would [even] be good enough” when hosting Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Wednesday. He does, though, believe that the crowd genuinely weaponised their influence against City, and can do so again as a midweek victory is pursued – a result that could be a major step in claiming third place in Group C, which would in turn secure them European football after Christmas.
“The atmosphere lifts us, everyone saw that against City,” he said. “They had world-class players and for the first 20 minutes they were in shock. If you see [Sergio] Aguero, David Silva, you could see they were shock. There was panic in the defence and the players were just shooting the ball.
“Aguero has played for a long time in the Premier League but with all due respect, they won’t have faced that kind of atmosphere in the Premier League. No stadium has that atmosphere You don’t normally see that kind of thing from Pep Guardiola’s teams. I don’t think they were ready for it and Celtic Park was one of the reasons for it. That night the atmosphere was the best I have ever played in.
“Celtic Park on European nights is something different, it gives you goosebumps. We just need to make sure we make the most of it. You need to make sure Gladbach are just as thrown. I’m sure the atmosphere will be as good, if not even better. It’s about how we start. The crowd can help but we can’t give their players space and time.”
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is daring to target four points from the double-header against the Germans. A “tough” target, but a necessary one when the German jaunt will be followed by Barcelona at home and City away. “You have to earn every single point in the Champions League,” the Irishman said. “For us it is a competition that we are delighted to be in and will try to wring everything we can out of it.”
His team squeezed the decibel level up to glass-shattering levels against City because of the “real special connection at the minute between the supporters and the players” and the fact that, in scoring immediately, and swarming over their visitors with a start of “great intensity”, they gave the crowd something to “feed off”.
Rodgers maintains there is no danger of the Celtic faithful thinking Monchengladbach could be easy meat just because they are a team from one of Europe’s top three ranked nations that aren’t Barca or City. Even if injury problems that forced attackers Thorgan Hazard and Rafael out of the club’s match with Hamburg yesterday could see a weakened opponent take to the pitch in Glasgow.