European football takes centre stage at Celtic Park once again, as the Hoops take on Hungarian side Ferencváros in their Champions League qualifier.
Based in capital city Budapest, the Green Eagles represent an unusually stiff level of competition for Celtic so early in their continental calendar. Despite this, Neil Lennon’s men are expected to progress through to the next phase of the competition if they play to expectation.
Celtic: There are no new concerns with regards to availability ahead of the tie. Odsonne Edouard is expected to overcome a thigh strain to retain his place in the starting eleven. Leigh Griffiths, Boli Bolingoli and Mikey Johnston expectedly miss out for the Glasgow club.
Ferencváros: David Siger (potential doubt)
Ferencváros: The Lowdown
For those of you who are not familiar with the Celts opponents, there are a few recognisable faces at the club. They are managed by former Tottenham and West Ham striker Sergei Rebrov. Famously, he is the scorer of Ukraine’s first ever goal in World Cup qualification in a 1-0 triumph over Northern Ireland in Belfast, the 46-year-old has been at the side since 2018.
Additionally, former Hibernian and Liverpool goalkeeper Adam Bogdan currently plies his trade in his homeland, after making the move at the beginning of this season.
Celtic: W-D-W-W (Hamilton 5-1, Kilmarnock 1-1, Reykjavik 6-0, Dundee Utd 1-0)
Conflicting could be a term of choice in relation to the Hoops start to life in 2020/21. Although the opening day trouncing of Hamilton alongside sweeping KR Reykjavik to the side were both convincing victories on their own turf, the Celts have struggled somewhat away from Parkhead.
Bereft of creativity away at Rugby Park, Celtic did not look like a side who were ever seriously going to threaten their Ayrshire opponents and subsequently dropped two points. Last Saturday showed parallel features of the previous league fixture, until Swiss striker Albian Ajeti saved the day with a debut strike at Tannadice, securing his side three priceless points.
Largely, the goal scored was a consequence of Neil Lennon’s tactical switch from the 4-2-3-1 formation to 3-5-2 which unlocked more space in the Tangerine defence. Offensively, Celtic need to allow their star players the fluidity to break between the lines and progress the ball with purpose.
We could well see the latter formation used from the start, as the one-legged tie format puts added emphasis on securing an early goal scoring advantage over the Hungarian opposition.
Ferencváros (MTK Budapest 1-1, Djurgarden 2-0)
Ferencváros started their 2020/21 campaign away to city rivals MTK Budapest recording a score draw. Viewed as the oldest rivalry in the Hungarian game, the reigning champions were disappointed not to obtain all three points in a game they were tipped to come out victorious. However, they performed admirably in their previous European round fixture against a respectable Djurgarden side. South Sudanese winger Tokmac Nguen was man of the match netting 2-0 goals to send the Budapest side through to their tie at Celtic Park.
Nguen is regarded as one of his side’s elite players, his pace and adaptability to anywhere across the front three offensive positions will need to be carefully monitored by the Celtic rear-guard. As well as the winger, Roland Varga poses considerable threat on the other wing should he feature. His intelligent movement and ball-striking technique has seen him become an established figure in the Ferencváros squad.
According to the Daily Record, Varga’s Brazilian team-mate Somalia has warned Celtic they will not have it all their own way in the all-champions clash:
“Celtic has a lot of history and tradition as a club – but they are not favourites for this match.
“Without fans it makes our chances level. We have a 50 per cent qualifying chance. To play in a mythical stadium like Celtic Park will be magnificent. But this will increase our performance.”
Celtic will need to be at the top of their game to progress from this fixture, however the Hoops should have enough to proceed closer to the group stages and the footballing and financial reward it carries.