After getting ahead of my targets in November by qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League, I wanted to begin giving young players a chance in my Celtic side, to see if they could be the future of Celtic.
However there was also the matter of a showdown for 1st place in Champions League Group A to play!
Allow me to jump a little ahead to the Champions League Group A match against Benfica. Playing at home, I’d hoped I could capitalize on this advantage and win, gaining first place in the group.
I setup with my 451 Control strategy against Benfica’s narrow 4132, and while it allowed us to dominate the match in terms of possession and chances, we lost!
Strikers Stokes and (unusually) Miku have a lot to answer for here. While Stokes didn’t take a single shot, three of the four shots Miku had missed the target. I wonder what might have been had we scored a second goal before Benfica got theirs.
We finished 2nd in a group where we were 3rd seeds. I can’t complain and in fact I am very happy at gaining 10 points – more than real life Celtic have in previous Champions League campaigns!
The other groups are below.
In the last 16 we drew Arsenal which I am pleased about. Celtic tend to do better against English sides and since Arsenal were not a league winner they could be regarded as an easier opponent. We’ll play the first leg at home in February with the return in March.
It was in the domestic games I started to rotate the squad. In particular I gave chances to youngsters McGeough, Watt and Fraser while Zaluska, Lustig and Lecjaks were the main senior beneficiaries.
However when you rotate the squad, form can dip too. And that’s exactly what happened here. While the players who came in impressed (particularly the young players) there were bizzare drops in form against Kilmarnock and Hibernian.
Despite that we are in the Scottish Cup 5th Round (Last 16), where we’ll play Ross County, and maintained first place in the SPL.
Our lead has been cut to 7 points from 9 last month, but I still feel confident of winning. I will continue to give young players a chance of the next month, but I’ll try to keep a steady line up as opposed to changing it game-to-game.
I am very pleased with the players ratings from Champions League matches. All but two players (who have started a game) have a rating over 7.00. Special mentions go to Wanyama, Samaras and Brown for maintaining an average rating over 7.50 while starting 6 or more games.
Overall the ratings are equally good. Samaras is top dog here and also leads the assists chart.
You will see quite a few extra players in these screenshots – these are the young players I’ve been giving a chance recently;
- Marcus Fraser (DC)
- Tony Watt (SC)
- Calum Waters (DL)
and they add to already-promoted youngsters McGeough, Rogne, Matthews, Forrest and more.
Injury wise only Tony Watt (5-6 weeks) and Lassad Nouioui (6-12 days) remain out.
The Reserve League form has improved and Celtic are now 2nd in the table, five points behind leaders Hibernian. With some reserve players returning from loan, I think they’ll go from strength to strength.
Now last month I said the U19s were out of the Next Gen Series. However I wonder if my eyes deceived me as I found that they have finished 3rd (out of 4) and in fact qualified for the next round!
While I am unsure why I said they finished bottom, the rules of the competition state that the first 2 teams qualify from each group + the 4 best 3rd placed teams, of which Celtic U19s were one. So in the Second Round (Last 16) they’ll play Arsenal Reserves! How ironic (again)?
We made another loss, this time of almost £1.4m, in December. This appears to be due to high Wages and Tax coupled with lower Prize Money than normal. Though it is often the case that football clubs make most of their money during pre-season and the end of the season.
The projection, as ever, shows profit falling. This time it’s from £27.02m last month to £25.17m this month. It’s still quite a large profit and I hope to maintain it.
As a reminder, I was given quite a big rise in my budget to £8.16m with approximately £10k left in wages.
Should I spend this on anyone? If I did, would it really give me any chance of beating Arsenal?