Jeremie Frimpong taking inspiration from Celtic’s Europa League wins over Lazio

Jeremie Frimpong watched Celtic’s win over Lazio in Rome from the edge of his sofa. Now the teenager is hoping he won’t need to take another back seat as Celtic take on Copenhagen in the first leg of their last 32 Europa League tie on Thursday evening.

Celtic full-back Jeremie Frimpong models a T-shirt at the opening of the clubs new Braehead shop. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Ineligible for the group stages of the tournament, Frimpong had to resign himself to a cheerleading role as Neil Lennon’s side topped their group with 13 points and twice took the scalp of group favourites Lazio in the process. The run the Serie A side have been on since then ought to frame that particular achievement.

Lazio’s 2-1 win over Inter Milan at the weekend didn’t just put them into second spot but also offered credence that they can be genuine title challengers as they look to claim their first championship since 2000. And for Frimpong it is Celtic’s ability to challenge Simone Inzaghi’s side which ought to encourage a boldness as they seek to go beyond the last 32 of the Europa League.

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“You shouldn’t fear anyone anyway,” insisted the former Manchester City prospect. “You just go and play. Anything can happen but we are doing well so we just need to keep it going. Every game we play, we want to win. We just have that mindset that we want to win every game.

“It’s been fun to watch. The matches have been really intense. I like them like that. My favourite was Lazio away. I wasn’t there but I watched it on TV. I was on the edge of my seat. It was a great match. I thought the team played really well in that game and took their chances.”

The likelihood is that Lennon will tweak his favoured back three for the game in Denmark this week. That could mean Frimpong – added to Celtic’s European squad list following their progression into the knockout stages – goes in at left-back, although the player
has insisted that he could also switch sides if required. With Greg Taylor struggling for 
the game after picking up an injury at Pittodrie on Sunday that may give the Celtic manager some consideration.

“I play on the right and left,” he said. “Left-back, right-back, I’ve played there. I have played on the left before. It’s been frustrating. I want to get on the pitch as fast as I can. I’ve been waiting for this day so 
I’m ready. I don’t know if the system will change. I just have to work hard in training. That’s all I can do.”

Frimpong will look to tweak his game to cope with the physicality of Scottish football. His recent weeks spent in Celtic’s treatment room came after he was stretchered off at Rugby Park following a fairly brutal clash from Alan Power, with the 19-year-old still irked that the challenge did not 
merit any kind of sanction.

“At first, I thought it was going be bad but it wasn’t as bad,” he said. “It was just a minor injury. It was just that I got a fright. You know what: I’ve looked back at it and his legs were up. If my foot had been planted on the floor, that would have been really bad.

“As he came to the challenge, my leg was lifted up a little bit. That’s why it wasn’t as bad. He did win the ball but it was a hard, hard tackle. [I thought there would have been] at least a card. The referee didn’t do anything. It was over the top but what can you do? I don’t know what went through his head but you have to get on with it.

“I knew Scottish football would be tough like this so you’ve got to be ready for it. I just didn’t expect it to come like that. If you’re on the pitch, you can’t be soft. You have to change your style of play.

“If you have to go in hard, you have to go in hard, but in the right way. I’ll just have to change my tactics. Instead of running directly, I’ll just pass the ball then run. It’s a case of learning. I’m doing that every day.”