In the aftermath of Arsenal’s perhaps suprising but fully deserved 6-1 victory over Everton in the Premier League’s opening weekend, the confidence mustered by many of the Celtic fans following the Champions’ League qualifying draw may have just evaporated away.
Arsenal were simply breathtaking. They looked like scoring almost every time they went forward, and there was no over-reliance on any one player to score either, unlike the days of Thierry Henry and a lesser extent Emmanuel Adebayor. The fact that two of Arsenal’s five goalscorers were defenders says a great deal of how every Arsenal player enjoys going forward and looks to score at every opportunity.
Celtic, still missing captain and centre-back Stephen McManus through injury, also recorded an equally deserved 3-1 over Aberdeen at Pittodrie in their opening league fixture. But the difference in quality that they will face on Tuesday means that it wasn’t exactly the ideal warm up.
Yet Celtic did look good going forward, thanks in no small part to Aiden McGeady. McGeady said after the game that Arsenal were ‘definitely beatable’ and if Celtic are to get a goal or two in the first leg in Glasgow, they will need him to be again on top form, along with talismanic striker Scott McDonald and Scott Brown, whom the Celts hope will have recovered from injury that has kept him out pre-season.
Friendly games aren’t exactly the ideal basis for comparison but given that Arsenal soundly defeated Rangers 3-0 in the Emirates Cup would seem to suggest that the Old Firm are incapable of mounting a serious challenge against the bigger clubs in England, and yet Arsene Wenger paid Celtic the ultimate compliment when he said he felt they were capable of competing in the Premier League. But of course an obvious gulf still exists between England’s top league and that of Scotland, especially when looking beyond Rangers and Celtic.
Money plays a large part in that of course, though Celtic have strengthened their squad while Rangers signed nobody this summer. But while Celtic are likely to be up for it, and could pull off a surprise or two at Celtic Park, Arsenal are full of confidence and the likelihood of an upset over the course of the two legs would seem doubtful.
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