Braga deserved to go through

Last night provided further proof that money and tradition are not everything in football and that hard work, discipline and good organisation can still bring rewards.

 Braga are a good, well-organised team who play to a defined pattern and work hard to implement the instructions of their top class coach, Paciencia. But they have no top class players, they lack creative inspiration other than Alan in midfield,  and they have no class goalscorers upfront. They are unlikely to progress to the Group Stages whichever of Ajax, Sevilla, Spurs, Werder Bremen or Zenith they draw in the playoff round. They are less good a team than they were last season and they are unlikely to finish in the top 3 in the Portuguese League.

Yet this team played Celtic off the park over 180 minutes. A Celtic team with a stronger player pool and reinforced by better quality and much more expensive signings. The explanation for this  lies with organisation. Paciencia is a very good coach. For over a year now he has trained his players thoroughly in the pattern he wants them to play, and every player knows their role and what the coach and their teammates expect of them. They are solid in defence with two strong centre backs well protected by two holding midfielders. Their new left back, known as Elderson now despite playing in the World Cup twice as a substitute under his Nigerian name, emphasised by comparison how Celtic still have not solved their left back problem.

Alan the classiest act on the park

 Alan in midfield has genuine class and when required can push up as a third forward. Upfront they are pedestrian although Paulo Cesar took his goal well and can also function in midfield. So they can fluidly change quickly from 4:4:2 to 4:3:3 or 4:5:1 depending on circumstances and the coach’s command. As  a team this group of players is stronger than the sum of their parts which is not a statement anyone would make about the current Celtic squad.

It remains to be seen whether Lennon has the tactical nous and sophistication to create systems and patterns for his players that will enable such a statement to become true for them. Unfortunately he does not really need to do so to triumph in Scotland given the paucity of opposition. Strong motivational skills would probably suffice in that context. But if Celtic are ever going to become a feared name in Europe again he will need to make them a far better organised team, with their own distinctive patterns of play. If he wants a leader on the park he could do worse than consider a previous GGW suggestion and rescue Hugo Viana from what looks like a year’s well paid exile with Valencia’s reserves. It would be ironically appropriate if he could provide for Celtic the kind of midfield leadership and inspiration that took Braga to their current heights.

Celtic are guaranteed a seeded place in Friday’s Europa League draw which means they should avoid all the class teams there including Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa, Juventus, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal and PSV Eindhoven. The full picture will not become clear until after tonights third round qualifying ties are completed but most of the non-seeded teams should not cause even the current Celtic team too much trouble. GGW would suggest that 4 to avoid in Friday’s draw are Borussia Dortmund, Montpellier, old foes Rapid Vienna and the PAOK Salonica team that almost eliminated Ajax. Also  arrange of competent Eastern European teams.

GGW will provide  a full profile of whatever opponent does come out of Friday’s draw