Celtic set to rely on old guard for Champions League tie as Ange Postecoglou won't throw youngsters in at deep end

The beginning of a new Celtic era will be a night forcing him to lean on old faces, Ange Postecoglou has conceded.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou admits the build-up to his Champions League opener has been "challenging" but that he will not use excuses for lowering expectations from the emand that his team produce winning football against FC Midtjylland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

The first competitive encounter of the Greek-Australian’s Parkhead reign, which bring FC Midtjylland to Glasgow for the first leg of in clubs’ Champions League second qualifying round, comes at an invidious time for him. Selection issues abound, with transfer activity exasperatingly drawn-out for the one-month-in-charge Celtic manager, who has also had to contend with injuries. Yet even allowing for those concerns - new Israeli winger Liel Abada not in the Champions League squad list and Japan forward Kyogo Furuhashi a week away from arriving in the country following the £3.6m deal struck for him last week - the paddling-pool depth of the squad with which he has been forced to operate across the close season won’t lead to him throwing in at the deep end the clutch of youngsters he has recently deployed.

Instead, Postecoglou admits he has tread carefully with Odsonne Edouard, Ismaila Soro, Ryan Christie and Nir Bitton in the past week in order that he can utlise them against the Danish League runners-up. “It has been a challenging time, and to be fair to the young players, we’ve had to play them in these games as we’ve been down on numbers,” he said. “It wasn’t about judging them, it was more about exposing them to what it’s like playing for this club. My expectations for them were not anything great.

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"But we’ll have a few players available who we’ve been kind of holding back because they haven’t been 100% right. I hope the team we put out is ready for a tough contest. We’ll probably be relying on the core members of the squad rather than the youngsters. The likes of Christie and Bitton trained and they will certainly help us. The same goes for Odsonne. He had a bit of niggly injury that kept him out of training for a few days. But he got half an hour [against Preston] at the weekend and he’s rebounded really well in training.”

The pessimism over the tie from the Celtic faithful is unprecedented. However, Postecoglou maintains he won’t use the myriad difficulties he has faced - which he touched on in nipping at his paymasters with comments to the broadcast media that the club must move “a little bit more precisely” and “a bit quicker” in their recruitment drive - as the rationale, should Celtic fall short. “My expectations are the same all the time. I want to win, I want to be successful and play great football,” he said. “That doesn’t change irrespective of the time I’ve been in a role or the challenge that’s before me. That’s my responsibility. Our supporters deserve to see their team endeavouring to be successful every time they go out there. We can’t go out looking for excuses. My expectations don’t change.

"Midtjylland are a good football club. They are a club that’s matured in terms of their identity and they have a clear model. They develop young players and play a certain way. They had a great run in the Champions League last year. It’s a great challenge for us but any tie is going to be a challenge where the rewards are so big.”

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