21 Oct Preview: Molde v Celtic
Predicted to be the whipping boys of Group A, Molde have made an impressive start to the Europa League, topping the group after victory over Fenerbahce and a draw to Ajax.
They welcome Celtic to the Molde Stadion on matchday three where they will hope to continue their fine start to Group A, but with a new manager at the helm in the form of club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Solskjaer was appointed the new coach just 24 hours before the encounter and he is back where he made a name for himself as a player and a manager.
“This will be a fantastic game for the players and everyone connected to the club,” he said. “We are up against a top international team, and the players are looking forward to it.”
The city of Molde in the northwest region of Norway is known as “The Town of Roses” for its picturesque flowered gardens and wonderful scenery.
The club’s fans have bought into that belief calling themselves Tornekrattet meaning the “thorn bush”. And they’ll recognise a few familiar faces from Celtic when they meet on Thursday.
|Europa League Group A|
Manager Ronny Deila was in charge of Stromsgodset for six years and led the club to a shock Tippeligaen championship title in 2013.
Also in the Hoops’ squad is Stefan Johansen, who played under Deila and was pivotal in Stromsgodset’s success, while Mikael Lustig had a spell at Rosenborg before moving to Glasgow.
Deila will be fully aware of the threat Molde pose but his record against them is less than convincing. He faced the Norwegian champions 13 times in the league, winning just three and losing six but he’ll be confident of picking up a positive result on Thursday.
And it’s a game which, if they have any aspirations of qualifying for the last-32 stage, they must win and then follow up with three points back in Glasgow.
However, one of the dangers to that scenario is Molde’s Ola Kamara.
The striker has been in impressive form and will have to be shackled by a new-look Hoops defence which has looked vulnerable in Europe this season if he gets the nod ahead of Tommy Hoiland – who has been preferred to Kamara in Europe so far.
Celtic have conceded two goals in each of their last four games in European competition so will be looking for more resilience at the back against a side which likes to counter-attack.
Deila has struggled to field a consistent back four with Jozo Simunovic and Charlie Mulgrew sidelined with injuries, while new signings Dedryck Boyata and Tyler Blackett have taken time to settle in after Virgil van Dijk’s departure.
That will give confidence to Kamara, who will hope he can add to this season’s tally of 14 goals for Molde.
The 26-year-old will be particularly familiar to Deila and Johansen as he was part of Stromsgodset’s title-winning side two years ago. Kamara credits Deila for his development.
He said: “I haven’t worked with any coach as good as Ronny. He is brilliant at motivating young players.” Another threat Celtic must look to nullify Mohamed Elyounoussi.
The Moroccan-born 21-year-old has 10 goals from 26 league games and is one of Norway’s hottest prospects.
In the middle of the park, Daniel Berg Hestad is the captain and provides experience, assurance and composure at 40 years of age. He captained the Molde team that lost to Rangers back in 2006 and will be hoping for a different outcome this time around.