Champions League Pre-Match with A Celtic State of Mind

A Celtic State of Mind have been largely impressed with Celtic’s start to the new season under Neil Lennon.

Lennon has his side playing a more open game, which has resulted in them falling behind in three games from seven. They will undoubtedly continue to leak a few goals, and may even lose the odd game this season, but they have been a joy to watch as an attacking force.

ACSOM’s team look ahead to the Champions League return leg against CFR Cluj:

COLIN WATT

On the back of a brilliant second-half performance against Motherwell on Saturday, the Bhoys face the challenge of CFR Cluj. Having fought hard for an away goal in Romania, the tie looks to be balanced in the Hoops’ favour, but Cluj will come over looking to cause an upset.

Celtic should welcome back Mikey Johnston, Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard to the line-up and the combination of these three should be enough to comfortably secure passage to the Champions League play-off round. We didn’t create a lot of chances in the away leg but with, hopefully, a big crowd behind the team, we can continue our high scoring start to the season.

At the back, Christopher Jullien and Kris Ajer should form a solid partnership, although Nir Bitton’s performance on Saturday was exceptional and, if Elhamed misses this game, I would be comfortable with the same back four from the weekend starting this tie.

An early goal would settle a lot of nerves around the stadium and I reckon Lennon will have this in mind as part of his team talk; a return to the formation played against Nomme Kalju could be the way to go.

My FansBet prediction is Celtic to win 3-0 with Odsonne Edouard to score anytime.

DECLAN MCCONVILLE

After a decent away performance in Romania with a crucial James Forrest goal, the Hoops should fancy their chances back at Celtic Park against CFR Cluj with the tie still level.

On Saturday, Celtic once again showed their superiority from middle to front after the 5-2 demolition of Motherwell. If Michael Johnston is fit, I imagine him to come back into the side along with Ryan Christie which will cause Cluj a lot of difficulties as these players have been outstanding so far.

At the back, Celtic will be hopeful of welcoming back Hatem Abd Elhamed at right-back which will allow Kristoffer Ajer to move back into centre-half. The big Norwegian was outstanding at the weekend and will be a crucial player at the back for the Hoops. Although Jozo Simunovic has played in every qualifier, I would imagine Neil Lennon will give Christopher Jullien his Champions League home debut at the back.

My FansBet prediction is Celtic to win 2-0 with Odsonne Edouard to score anytime.

MARTIN DONALDSON

Celtic return to home comforts after two away matches over the last week. An impressive 5-2 win at Fir Park at the weekend will provide a spring in the step of the attacking players in our side.

The ability to shift the ball quickly and make the most of the chances presented has been a positive along with the number of players willing (and able) to take a pop at goal.

A draw with Cluj was the reward for a hard-fought match in Romania last week. Our visitors come to Glasgow needing to score to keep their Champions league quest moving and there was enough evidence in Transylvania to suggest the newly-formed Celtic defence will need to be on their toes for the return leg.

With confidence high amongst our striking options, we should have enough to spare in front of a big crowd at Celtic Park.

Celtic to win 3-1 with Edouard to score.

RYAN HARLEY

Coming off the back of a five goal performance in Motherwell, Celtic are coming into the second leg of the tie against Cluj on great form. Should this excellent run of form continue, Celtic are well on course to progress to the Champions League playoff round against Slavia Prague.

As Saturday’s performance in Motherwell showed, Celtic are able to produce goals from all areas of the park, with goals coming from players from front to back – so goalscoring shouldn’t be an issue for the Hoops. Key attacking players such as Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard played less than half an hour in the 5-2 win at the weekend, so should be fit to put in another attacking masterclass come Tuesday night. Neil Lennon’s side will also be boosted by the return of Mikey Johnston to training, who has been on stellar form over the past few weeks, who should provide an additional goal threat if he is to return to the match day squad.

As was clear in the first leg of the tie against the Romanian champions, Celtic still do have some defensive issues that need clearing up, but Neil Lennon may be on the way to rectifying them. Hatem Abd Elhamed has had a couple of promising performances in the hoops in his short time at the club, so his return to the right back position after a short time out injured may shore up Celtic’s somewhat shaky defence. Added to that the ever increasing role of Christopher Jullien in the squad, who has looked a solid presence in the appearances he has made in the hoops, then Celtic may have less to worry about than some fans initially thought.

With the Celtic Park crowd behind them, there is no reason why Celtic can’t put in a real impressive performance on Tuesday night, so my prediction is 3-0 Celtic, with two goals coming from Ryan Christie, and the other from Mikey Johnston.

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