5 things Celtic must bear in mind to master Molde

SINCE the embarrassment in Norway a fortnight ago, Ronny Deila’s outlook on life has veered back to the positive after back-to-back wins over Hearts and Aberdeen.
Molde's Mohammed Elyounoussi celebrates putting the hosts 3-1 up in the last game between the sides. Picture: SNSMolde's Mohammed Elyounoussi celebrates putting the hosts 3-1 up in the last game between the sides. Picture: SNS
Molde's Mohammed Elyounoussi celebrates putting the hosts 3-1 up in the last game between the sides. Picture: SNS

That renewed sense of hope around the club will only last past tonight if Celtic are to make amends for the 3-1 disaster with a victory that keeps their Europa League hopes alive.

Andrew Smith looks at five key factors the hosts need to master the must-win game.

Possession isn’t 9/10ths of winning games

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Celtic dominated the ball in Molde the other week, having it almost twice as much as their opponents. In their Champions League qualifier away in Malmo, they were in charge in this area. Fat lot of good it did them on both occasions, with 3-1 and 2-0 defeats respectively.

If he is to lead his side out of Group A in the Europa League, Ronny Deila must find a way of having his team play the possession football he demands that does not make them vulnerable to pacy, counter-attacking sides as Molde proved themselves in Norway.

It’s not always how you start but about how you finish

Celtic have been pegged back from leading in three European encounters this season. They conceded a 95tth minute goal at home to Malmo to have to settle for a slender 3-2 win that entirely changed the dynamics of the tie.

In their last continental outing at Celtic Park they squandered a two-goal advantage to draw 2-2 against Fenerbahce, having started their Europa League group campaign with only a point because of a very late goal lost away to Ajax.

Celtic this season have developed a habit of losing late goals, while rarely scoring them. They must find a way of being able to apply energy levels and concentration for the 90-plus minutes of games.

It need not be so difficult to deny opponents at set-pieces

Celtic are propping up their Europa League group with only two points from their three games because they have given up goals from set-pieces hoisted into their box in each of those games. Moreover, in their past two domestic games, Celtic have lost goals from dying minute corners - which exposes two of their deficiencies.

The club’s pure zonal marking system for such scenarios has clearly developed a flaw that needs remedial work on the training ground, or reworking to include an element of man-marking. Many clubs have a mixed approach.

The first concern for full-backs is goal prevention

Emilio Izaguirre has taken a barrage of abuse for appearing to be halfway up the pitch any time and European opponents plays the ball in behind the Celtic defence. Mikael Lustig suffered likewise - without such a critical appraisal - in Molde.

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Celtic’s propensity for deploying their full-backs like wing-backs has seemed to play into the hands of counter-attacking sides. Whoever occupies those roles at Celtic Park against Molde should be asked to be more circumspect in pushing up into the visitors’ half.

Kris Commons can produce game-changing moments at any point

The withdrawal of goalscorer Commons in Molde brought the 32-year-old’s egregious flounce-out that compounded the misery of the Celtic’s 3-1 defeat in Norway. The Weeble of a playmaker might not always be the most industrious, but there is always a crafted, intelligent intervention in him capable of turning any European home game. Commons seems to revel in the stage and Ronny Deila should persist with his creative fulcrum on such occasions whatever the tweaks to his side he might feel necessary.