Olivier Ntcham is determined to play his part in making history repeat itself for Celtic in the Champions League this season.
The French midfielder has set his sights on facing his former club Manchester City in the group stage of the tournament. Celtic emerged with credit from their games against Pep Guardiola’s side last season, drawing 3-3 in Glasgow and then 1-1 in Manchester during their group stage campaign.
Ntcham, who became Celtic’s most expensive player in a decade when he joined them from City in a £4.5 million deal this summer, has no lack of incentive as he prepares for the first leg of the Scottish champions’ play-off round tie against Astana this Wednesday night.
“I hope to play against Manchester City in the group stage,” said the 21-year-old. “I watched the games between the teams last season, they were two good games. For me, it is very important to play in the Champions League. But if I don’t play against Astana, it is not bad.The most important thing is the team. I hope we are going to do well. Celtic belong in the Champions League. For me, if Celtic don’t go into the group stage, it will be a strange feeling.”
Ntcham scored his first goal for Celtic last Friday night as they defeated Partick Thistle 1-0 at Firhill to maintain their 100 per cent start to the defence of their Premiership title.
Some observers felt the goal should have been credited to Scott Brown, pictured, as Ntcham’s on-target shot took a slight deflection off the Celtic captain before beating Thistle goalkeeper Tomas Cerny.
“For me, it’s definitely my goal,” insisted Ntcham. “Scott didn’t try to claim it, he just touched the ball but the ball was going in anyway. It is a good feeling because it is my first goal and I hope it is going to continue like this.
“I hope this is the first of many goals. Is that possible? Yes, because it is always my target to score goals and make assists. So, if I can score more goals, it is always good. To score early does help you settle into a new club, but it doesn’t matter if I score or don’t score, as long as I help the team. So far, it is above my expectations, the amount of games I have played Because when I came here, for the first three, four or five games, I was a little bit tired but I am getting better and better game after game.
“The manager has told me my role as a midfielder – the first thing is to not lose the ball and I have to show skill sometimes, sometimes it is one touch or two touch.
“This is my game. It is good football here in Scotland, I like it. It’s like English football because you have to fight for every ball.”