Madrid Indiana Jones in Celtic’s Temple of Zoom as Ange Postecoglou wants box-office clash to offer escapism from bills

In cinematic terms, the Champions League is the IMAX of football.

Kyogo Furuhashi trained ahead of Celtic v Real Madrid despite suffering a shoulder injury against Rangers at the weekend.
Kyogo Furuhashi trained ahead of Celtic v Real Madrid despite suffering a shoulder injury against Rangers at the weekend.

As Celtic won’t need telling following no such nights out in the past five years, Real Madrid as the name in lights ensures an attraction on the grandest scale, in an arena that is super-surround sound, nay 4DX, for its ability to produce extreme sensory experience. What awaits is no less than a picture show that brings into focus the game’s greatest, and most enduring, franchise. Indeed, the blockbuster Spaniards, with the climactic derring-do in last season’s knock-out stages that snared them the big cup for a record 14th time, might be considered the Indiana Jones property of their sporting domain. Ange Postecoglou’s men, meanwhile, might be likened to a budget indie flick. One in which relatively modest production values need not necessarily preclude excellence and stonking entertainment.

The Australian understands that right now, more than ever, with the cost of living crisis and fuel bills rocketing to fearful levels, the Celtic faithful crave such energising escapism and a stirring narrative. The sort that his team’s audacious approach – lightning speed of thought and movement in forward areas, as evidenced in their weekend evisceration of Rangers – maybe just could script. In the Group F confrontation then, it is a case of the Madrid Indiana Jones in Celtic’s Temple of Zoom.

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“Absolutely, [escapism] is what football clubs are all about,” said Postecoglou. “We get 60,000 in here every game and have 60,000 ticket holders. It is hard-earned money they are putting in. And what they want with that hard earned money is not the satisfaction of them paying a bill. It gives them something in their life that money can’t give them anywhere else. Tuesday night is a night for that. That’s the reward of them coming in here. Whatever struggles they may be going through, this gives them a little bit of joy, irrespective of their background or what their current situation is. They are as one in here, experiencing the same thing.”

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou wants to entertain the sell-out crowd against the reigning European champions.
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Postecoglou will be experiencing the Champions League for the first time. And, frankly, his current Celtic team have little to live up in terms of the club’s recent group stage form. As sovereign wealth funds, Middle Eastern despotic monarchies and billionaire American sporting franchise owners have sunk their claws into various European football brands boasting potential, the potential for humbling such as Barcelona – as Celtic did en route to the last 16 in 2012 – have receded. As reflected in the fact that the Glasgow club have two wins in their past 18 group outings, and have failed to score in six of their past nine home group encounters. His response to these grim statistics is to demonstrate he is more realist than dreamer, whatever the idealised style of football he wants to patent.

“I don’t think we go from our recent record to this year thinking we’re going to fly through it. It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “You need to gain experience, but that is my objective. I want to make us a Champions League team that compete at this level every year, and every time makes an impact. It’s not just about taking part this year and not making any progress as a football club.”

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Postecoglou’s personal progress did not have many convinced he would become a Champions League manager. As of last May, there was no inevitability that he would ever be handed a gig in the football crucible of European football. His Australian passport appeared to be an insurmountable impediment. Title successes helming South Melbourne, Brisbane Roar and, more recently, in Japan with Yokahama F Marinos, as well as Asian Cup triumph as national manager of the Greek-born immigrant’s country of upbringing failing to cut through. The Celtic manager was asked if it meant that, with near quarter-of-a-century coaching odyssey having at last landed him the globe’s greatest club competition, starting this week he will be looking to make up for lost time.

“I don’t have much time left to do it, so I’m trying to … look, I’ve just turned 57 so it’s not like I’m beginning my managerial career. But that’s part of what’s been my challenge,” he said. “I guess that’s built a resilience in me that means I’m not daunted by anything. Having come from the other side of the world, and be sitting here now, I’ve had to overcome some fairly significant challenges, the biggest one being my passport to prove to people I could perform at the highest level. So I’m trying to make sure that while I’m here now I make the most of it.”

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Real Madrid arrive at Celtic Park unbeaten this season and the veteran Luka Modric still pulls the strings in their midfield.

The Celtic manager has unabashedly acknowledged previously that he is a football purist. It could be said then, that both on and off the pitch, it has come the hard way for him to reach the stage where he is now allowed to mix it with the game’s grandees. Yet, it seems he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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For all the chat about their home surrounds being crucial to the Scottish champions’ cause on such evenings, If Celtic were from a tiny footballing backwater and played out of a 15,000-seater, curiously their task might be a little less arduous against Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Such backdrops can subconsciously cause the game’s glitterati to go through the motions. But that doesn’t tend to happen in the hugely imposing ampitheatre in Glasgow’s east end that sparks a special sort of footballing electricity.

“The arena sets itself up for anyone to want to perform in it. Irrespective of whatever club you play for or what heights your career has reached,” said the Celtic manager. “Walking out here tomorrow night there won’t be a player on that field who doesn’t want to play well. Brilliant, that’s what we want. We want to be up against the best. I don’t want them at their worst, I want them at their best and see how we go.”

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It is a clash that has box office written all over it.

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