'Pots aren't my forte' - Ange Postecoglou vows to stick to Celtic principles as he dismisses Real Betis third seed status

There appears to be nothing Ange Postecolgou allows to upset his equilibrium.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou says his team will stick to their attacking principles away to Real Betis despite a raft of call-offs. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

That would even seem to extend to the profound rupturing of such a balance within his Celtic squad – the result of a raft of integral players being rendered unavailable for the club’s Europa League group opener away to Real Betis.

The prospects of the Australian becoming the first Celtic manager to win a 90-minute game on Spanish soil – as has proved elusive in 19 previous attempts – would appear to have hit the buffers with the identity and number of personnel he will be without in Seville.

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He has no captain and team leader, Callum McGregor out with a muscle injury. Kyogo Furuhashi’s injury and Giorgos Giakoumakis’s absence leaves him with only Albian Ajeti as for central striker options. In terms of width provided by any senior players, Jota - the loanee Benfica winger who has made only one appearance in Celtic colours - is just about a man alone. That is the case because James Forrest has yet to be restored to full health and Liel Abada misses out, along with fellow member of the Jewish faith Nir Bitton, in observing the holy day of Yom Kippur. Meanwhile, Greg Taylor’s long-term sidelining with a shoulder problem requiring surgery presents issues in the left-back position.

It would have been forgivable were Postecoglou to have put on the poor mouth amid all these selection quandries created by the depletion of his squad. The 56-year-old can, though, take the heat - it is just that he stays out of the kitchen. It doesn’t stop him pushing the conviction that his team can cook up their front-foot football and see the Group G encounter as offering up an “opportunity” for creating special memories, retaining his off-beat sense of humour in promoting such promise.

The Australian’s latest quirky quip was elicited when it was put to him that with Celtic in pot two for their section, and Manuel Pellegrini’s team in pot three, the rankings might seem skewed against the present backdrop.

“Mate, I stay out of the kitchen so pots aren’t my forte,” he said. “I don’t look too much into stuff like that. If anyone suggests there’s some sort of hierarchal criteria that puts one team above another...What I do know is that they [Betis] are a quality team. They finished sixth in La Liga, which is a fantastic competition. You just have to look at the teams they finished close to know they are a quality team and they have a quality manager who has been around for a long time and had a lot of success.

“They have some outstanding players in their team. I doubt they look at it that somehow what pot they are in determines what kind of team they are going to be. I think it’s a really good group [with Bayer Leverkusen and Ferencvaros]. There are challenges in each team, and for us away from home, this game will be an enormous challenge for us. But it’s one we’re looking forward to.”

It is a daunting challenge that Postecoglou will not be cowed by, as he is likely to be forced to perm players such as James McCarthy - who has yet to start for the club - and youngster Adam Montgomery into a wholly unfamiliar line-up. No McGregor won’t result in him playing two holders to compensate for the loss of the midfield fulcrum it would seem, though.

“If you start changing strategy because of one or two things happening, the players lose belief in what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We change personnel but we stick to our principles and build some resilience in the group. Our captain’s out, a significant player, but we still march on, trying to be the football team we want to be. There has been that state of flux the whole time, where it has been new players coming in, injuries, and some injured players out. It’s just the period we’re going through. There hasn’t been a real broad, settled period at all, but I think through that we can build some real resilience in the group and show them that if we stick to the kind of football we can play we can still be successful and there’s nothing to be deterred by anything.”

The whole Seville return, with resonance because of the club’s lost UEFA Cup final in 2003, and the club’s Spanish record, creates potential narratives Postecoglou fully appreciates.

“There aren’t many facts about Celtic that I’m not aware of, you’re constantly reminded of the successes and the near misses and all those kinds that have happened at this football club,” he said. “That’s why I love being involved – there’s opportunities at every junction to create our own memories and historical moments. That’s why you come to a football club like Celtic and that’s why we were happy to get to the group stages of this competition. Unless you’re in it you don’t get those opportunities.

“I’m very aware of Seville in 2003. I’m sitting in a room now surrounded by images of Martin O’Neill and the fantastic Celtic support that followed us there for that game, so it’s not lost on me. The one thing about this football club is if you can create a special memory, it’s chronicled here and it’s elevated to a status where the people involved can one day come back here in years to come and be able to reflect on it. That’s the opportunity that this group now has, whether it’s in this game, or in the coming games, or the coming years.”

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