Ex-Celtic star Lubomir Moravcik believes that next week’s opening game against Feyenoord in the UEFA Champions League could be key to Celtic’s fortunes within the group.
Celtic kick off their campaign away to the Dutch side with Moravcik pointing to the fact that Lazio and Atletico Madrid will realistically fight it out for the top two berths with Brendan Rodgers’ side and the Dutch competing for the third place finish that parachutes into the Europa League.
And the little Slovakian has urged Celtic to show composure in front of goal if they are to reap any success within Europe’s premier competition.
“It is going to be a crucial game [Feyenoord] because we have to say honestly that Atletico and Lazio will be favourites for the group,” he said.
“The first game can say who is the team who can cause a surprise or who can be third. For Celtic it is necessary to start with a positive result and to have a good position before their first home game.
“If you play against a team who is favourite to win you can’t expect to miss four or five clean chances,” he said.
“You need to take your chances and make trouble for the team who, on paper, is better. But Celtic has a possibility with players like Kyogo who is quick in counter-attacks.
“To be successful against better teams you have to be strong defensively and realistic to score goals from just a few chances. You have to maybe start well in Feyenoord and that can create confidence for the players.
“The competition between Feyenoord for third place is logical. Everyone must accept that. It is the same level of competition.
“If you start well and bring the points from Rotterdam you can win at home – we beat Juventus. These players can beat Atletico Madrid and also Lazio.
“One point from Rotterdam maybe can get Celtic to expect to qualify for even the second part of the Champions League.”
And while Celtic pride themselves on the raucous atmosphere at Celtic Park on a Champions League night, Moravcik has pointed out that to sustain it they need to take advantage of it in the opening stages.
It is highly unlikely that seasoned professionals are ever spooked by noise inside a stadium with the former playmaker urging Celtic to utilise it to their own end, pointing out that if they turn the game in their favour then that is when the atmosphere can work for them.
“I saw the game against Real Madrid last season and Celtic were very good but at the end of the day they lost,” he said. ”
The atmosphere is very important for the first 20 or 30 minutes and if the favourites concede a goal then it can make it hard.
But if Celtic miss their chances then experienced opposition players are good with that. Real Madrid is the example.
“Celtic didn’t score goals and then lost the game. It is important to use that pushing from fans at the beginning to try to score and to be helped by the fans.”
Moravcik himself started just one Champions League game for Celtic – against Juventus in a pulsating 4-3 win in Glasgow – but it was a stage he had held long ambitions of playing on.
“It was my dream to play there and at 36 I never thought that it could happen for me,” he said.
“I remember how happy I was when we beat Ajax to qualify because I had long felt that the chance to go and compete against the very best was gone for me.
“It was a very special moment for me and I am sure these players now at Celtic know just how important it is for them that they have this chance.
“Celtic deserve to be in this competition every year because they are a big club. The Scottish league is not enough to prove how big a club Celtic is.
“The Champions League is absolutely necessary for the club and also for the players.
“I thought the draw was quite good. Lazio, I think, are better than Roma. They play very good football and it is not going to be easy for Celtic.
“Atletico Madrid are among the best four teams in Spain so this is a hard draw. They are a stable club in this competition and it is a good level of football and Feyenoord are similar to Celtic in Holland.
“I think the games will be tough.
“But football is also about luck. To have good luck in the beginning if you score from an early chance you have a better opportunity to finish with a positive score.
“That game against Feyenoord will be important to start the competition and be ready for the games that come after. Feyenoord I think are at the same level as Celtic.”
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