The club’s manager would not be drawn on whether he would retain faith with the once-more under fire Vasilis Barkas in Denmark or turn to Scot Bain, the Greek-Australian intimating he has no set number-one. Barkas’ goal-costing error in the 1-1 first leg of the second round Champions League qualifier last Tuesday gave way to questions over his positioning for one of the three goals he conceded in his 45 minutes across Saturday’s 6-2 whipping by West Ham.
Following a troubled debut season after his £4.5m move from AEK Athens, Barkas is again being micro-analysed to an unhealthy degree - beyond his actual contributions - and this may factor into Postecoglou’s decision on selection. Instructively, he did not provide Barkas a ringing endorsement on that front.
“Apart from the first leg, consistently through pre-season Bainy and Barky have shared the duties,” said the Celtic manager, without Leigh Griffiths through injury. “I don’t think anyone is number one. They are competing for spots. I’ll see how everyone trains and select a team from there. In terms of Bainy, he’s been very good in training and games. I made a call to play Barky in the first game and I’ll make a call on the second game after training.”
Postecoglou is effectively out to buy himself breathing space in Midtjylland. Victory would ensure at least Europa League group football till Christmas, with PSV Eindhoven likely to lie in wait for the winners in a Champions League third round qualifier. The need to play an untried back four in which 18-year-old Dane Murray will make his first competitive start had Postecoglou admitting the requirement is to “fly by the seat your pants” right now, with new signings in £4.5m centre-back Carl Starfelt and £4.6m Kyogo Furuhashi – who he says could have made “a significant impact” – still quarantining. The Swede is a possibility for the cinch Premiership opener away to Hearts on Saturday. “But I love that,” he stressed, stating overseas recruitment in the pandemic age takes longer but that their “easier” route of signings from Scotland would have represented short-termism when he is intent on building for way beyond this period.
The straight-shooter was utterly dismissive of effecting a momentum shift or achieving a landmark success should Celtic extricate themselves from an unpromising situation against the Danish league runners-up. “I’m [almost] 56 now and have figured out what’s important in life,” he said. “My role is to try and prepare the blokes going out there and I genuinely get excited every time the team plays, whether that’s Champions League or whatever the game may be. I’m looking forward to that. But if people are expecting me to be sort of swinging from the chandeliers because we win a game, it’s just not my nature. I feel lucky every day with what I do and opportunities like this are why I love the game.”
Meanwhile, Postecoglou batted away questions over reports a £3m move for Antwerp right-back Aurelio Buta is nearing completion: “I’ve said I can’t talk about deals that are being made and, at this moment you are talking to me, there are no other deals that have been made, but we are trying hard.”