Celtic Matters

Apologies and Survey Request

Sandy Jamieson Working hard on the "Yellow Submarine", not on holiday

GreenGreenWorld would like to apologise to all its regular visitors and faithful readers for the recent 6 week holiday it has recently taken. This was necessary to allow Sandy Jamieson to concentrate 100% on finishing off writing, then begin editing, his book on Villarreal CF  “YELLOW SUBMARINE  – the miracle of Villarreal CF and  a voyage in search of integrity, community and friendship in football. ” The book is now virtually completed and will be published by Ringwood Publishing  in Glasgow sometime in early 2011.

From today, normal service is being resumed with GreenGreenWorld.

A great number of the comments GGW has received during its absence have indicated that many of our  readers would prefer shorter articles on a more regular basis, to longer but less frequent ones. So from now on, articles will appear more regularly with  more short  ones interspersed with the occasional longer more reflective analysis.

Greengreenworld would also ask all its readers who have not yet filled in the Green Survey to do so. It only takes a few minutes and helps GGW know and understand better the main interest and concerns of its readers

At the end of the year GGW will present a full analysis of the information gleaned in 2010 so please, if you have not already done so, please complete the survey form

Villarreal fall short at the very top, and show less in reserve

Villarreal blow chance to go top of La Liga

Last night Villarreal blew a great chance to go to the top of La Liga for the first time in their admittedly brief history in La Liga. They had previously , as they say in Spain, gone to sleep top of the league, most recently in some of the early rounds of the 2008-2009 season, but they had never remained top after all the games of a round had been completed.  Any victory last night, over Hercules in Alicante would have seen them clear leaders after all the game in round 7 were complete.

But they failed to take the opportunity and can only have themselves to blame. Hercules are a stuffy side, with two or three good players, but they are not a top class team. But Villarreal failed to dispose of them in the way they should have if they had played to anything like their true form. It was obvious from the start that the crisp passing game that characterises this Villarreal team was not functioning well. Attempted pass after pass that on the training ground or on a better day would have found its way to its intended destination drifted off course, fell short or overshot by a narrow but decisive margin. All the key passers in the team, Senna, Cazorla, Valero, Nilmar, Rossi seemed affected. I don’t know whether it was nerves, or sagging under the burden of responsibility for a historic milestone, but the result was poor football, by normal Villarreal standards. Over the first half, overall possession, usually a killing factoring in Villarreal’s favour actually showed up as 53-47% to Hercules, not a smooth passing team. Their greater possession was due to the number of times Villarreal gave away possession to them with poor passes. It might have been different, they might have relaxed and settled to their normal game, if Nilmar had scored, but after a typical piece of outstanding skill he skinned the centre back, surged forward and cracked an amazing shot, right against the crossbar. Football is definitely a game of fractions, a millimetre here or there can be crucial. Within minutes, Hercules were ahead. At a free kick, stupidly conceded, the Villarreal defensive line naively all came out together leaving no less than 3 Hercules players onside and alone. Valdez the Paraguayan signed in the summer from Dortmund scored easily, leaving even the excellent Diego Lopez with no chance.

Capdevila. Even better than Tommy Gemmell

Fate and the first good move of the night gave Villarreal a chance to equalise before Hercules could settle to their lead. A classically ‘Villarreal’ ball from Cazorla out wide to Angel allowed the full back to cross low into the box where the furthest forward Villarreal player, World Cup hero Capdevila, was able to hook it home. GGW has several times commented on the similarity of Capdevila to old Celtic idol Tommy Gemmell and it is definitely there, but Capdevila is a far better player.

Inspired by this Villarreal began playing some better football. Once more,  the ‘if only’ column had an entry from Rossi when a rocket shot hit the post after good combination play put the wee Italian through. Crucial millimetres again the difference.

Then more defensive deficiency and disaster. Musacchio drifted of his man Trezeguet and although Angel got back to cover, his tackle was comical and the cool Frenchman scored his fourth league goal of the season with ease. It is amazing that such a gifted and prolific goal scorer received no offer from the Premier League or other big clubs and ended up at lowly Hercules.

(continue reading…)

Villarreal’s Fantastic Four surf the crest – Next stop – the Top?

Villarreal Celtic fans' favourite Spanish team are 2nd in La Liga

All Spain loves American movies, especially popular blockbusters, and it has not taken long for the Spanish media to christen Villarreal’s offensive foursome of Nilmar, Rossi, Cazorla and Valero as the “Cuatro Fantasticos” or Fantastic Four, in an allusion to the superheroes of that name. 

After a poor start when an over-cautious formation cost them a defeat in their first game, Villarreal have rattled off 5 successive league victories on the trot to start the 2 week international break in 2nd place in La Liga, above both Real Madrid and Barcelona. The football Villarreal have played at times, particularly in two scintillating home victories against Espanol and Racing Santander, has been the kind of excellent fast passing, pressing possession football pioneered by Pellegrini over the past few years. Last season, after 6 rounds of La Liga Villarreal had been in second bottom place. This season after 6 rounds they are in second top place. This article will examine some of the reasons behind this dramatic change.

Last year under Pellegrini’s replacement Ernesto Valverde, Villarreal’s stuttering performances in the opening weeks of the season had them actually in very last place in the league after 7 rounds. The patience of President Fernando Roig with Valverde’s total failure to sort things out was finally exhausted at the end of January 2010 and he was sacked to be replaced by the coach Juan Carlos Garrido who had taken the Villarreal B side to an unprecedented 4th place in the Segunda Division. Gallardo stopped the slide, re-established control of the dressing room, and restored a pattern of play similar to the classic Villarreal style developed under first Paquito then Manual Pellegrini.

(continue reading…)

Celtic and Europe – The importance of staying involved

Not represented in Europe last week

Last week must have felt painfully empty for Celtic supporters as the Group Stages of the two European competitions started, with the Parkhead club nowhere to be seen. Celtic had suffered the double ignominy of elimination in successive ties from first the Champions League and then the Europa League. They exited the top competition after a couple of docile performances against respectable opposition in Braga. Then against a moderate Utrecht they performed so cravenly that the Dutch club who had fully expected to be eliminated were able to grab the place in the Europa League Group Stages that had seemed to be Celtic’s for the asking.

Celtic supporters have always had a keen interest in European football, an interest fuelled by the club’s successes in the Stein era and sustained by regular European adventures ever since. The club attained great credibility with Final appearances in both major club competitions, most recently the UEFA Cup in 2003. 

Celtic fans - the friendliest in Europe

Celtic supporters used the opportunity to travel widely in Europe accompanying their team to create a top reputation of their own, as the friendliest and best behaved supporters in the world. The objective truth of this claim was confirmed by awards from both FIFA and EUFA following their friendly takeover of Seville in 2003.

Celtic supporters have been welcomed and appreciated wherever they have gone. Their trip to Villarreal in 2004 lead directly to the formation of a 700 strong Celtic Submari supporters Club in Villarreal dedicated to sustaining close and lasting  links with Celtic and its supporters.


While St Pauli in Hamburg have made friends all over the world with their special commitment to values based on anti-Nazism, anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-homophobia, they have created a special affinity with Celtic fans because of the recognition of shared values represented by the Celtic support.

 Recent changes to the UEFA Country and Club co-efficients systems mean that it will be even harder for Celtic to qualify for the Champions League next season. Even if they are Scottish champions in 2010-11 they would have to get through two qualifying rounds, at least one against a higher rated club. Second place in the Scottish League will no longer bring any opportunity to qualify for the Champions League.

 Greengreenworld(GGW) feels it is very important that Celtic fans do not respond to their disappointment and disillusionment at these recent qualification failures by turning their backs on the European and World club scene but instead commit themselves to retaining a keen and informed interest. GGW will dedicate itself to helping Celtic supporters maintain an informed interest by providing regular reports on both European Club competitions as well as detailed reports from 5 clubs of special interest to Celtic supporters across the world.

When you are eliminated from a tournament there is always some positive consolation when your conquerors do well, and a more complicated and perverse satisfaction when they do badly. That syndrome was one of the two reasons why all Villarreal supporters were fully behind Zenit St Petersburg in the 2008 UEFA Cup Final in Manchester. So GGW will provide regular reports on on how Braga and Utrecht do in the Champions League and Europa League respectively.

Celtic and Villarreal - friends for ever

In addition GGW will provide regular reports of the European progress on Celtic’s favourite Spanish club, Villarreal as they seek to win the Europa League. GGW knows that ever since the incredible friendship between Villarreal and Celtic supporters started in 2004, a fair number of Celtic supporters have closely followed Villarreal’s continued adventures in Europe, especially when Celtic are no longer in contention. For my book on Villarreal I have interviewed many Celtic supporters who have gone to Villarreal’s European games in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup over the past few seasons, either at El Madrigal or in accessible away games in England or Western Europe. With Celtic out already, a fair number of Celtic fans will use the money they put aside to follow Celtic in Europe to give their support to the Yellow Submarine. Details of the Group Stage games and venues are given in the last GGW post “Villarreal the Good and Bad news”. Details of Villarreal’s opening match in the Europa League will be given in the next GGW post “Villarreal – Fiesta joy turns sour”.

The other favourite European team of Celtic supporters, St Pauli have made a reasonable start to their attempt to consolidate themselves in the Bundesliga after last season’s hard won promotion. GGW will provide regular reports over the next few months on the progress of this struggle for survival, to see if a club with such values can survive in the mercenary and ruthless environment.

Hangzhou Greentown stadium - Where the Chinese green and white team play

GGW knows from the positive response to its earlier articles, that many Celtic supporters have adopted Hangzhou Greentown the club captained by Du Wei and that play in green and white, as their Chinese team. At the start of the season it looked as if Greentown would have a difficult time avoiding the bottom two spots they inhabited the previous season only avoiding relegation because two of the clubs that finished above them were removed from the league for corruption. But under Du Wei’s inspired leadership they have steadily climbed up the table and are currently 4th, occupying one of the slots for next season’s Asian Champions League. GGW will provide regular reports on how they do in pursuit of this ambitious goal.



Many Celtic supporters were stunned by the ease with which Arsenal destroyed Braga to the tune of 6 goals to nil. The Braga team that faced Arsenal was actually significantly stronger than the one that disposed of Celtic. With the money assured by qualification following the victories over Celtic and Sevilla they invested in quality players like goalkeeper Felipe from Brazilian league leaders Corinthians, Uruguayan defensive midfielder Luis Aguair and creative midfielder Hugo Viana as well as a couple of other squad players, Elton and Custudio. Yet this reinforced Braga side was brushed aside dismissively by Arsenal in a way that demonstrated the correctness of the GGW assertion that Braga were not that good a team. So what that says about Celtic is a matter best not pursued too rigorously.

In the Europa League Celtic’s surprised conquerors, FC Utrecht acquitted themselves reasonably well gaining an away draw in Naples and setting themselves up to have a good chance to make the top two in the Group.

Next week GGW will provide fuller previews of both Braga and Utrecht before their second Group games, as well as detail of Villarreal’s crucial home game against FC Bruges

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The Good and Bad News for Followers of Villarreal

Good News

Marchena and Borja Valero two new signings help good start in Europe

The main good news is that Villareal comfortably qualified for the Group Stage of the Europa League. That must count as a good outcome after finishing last season one place below the Europa League slots. After a summer of diplomatic activity UEFA at the last minute deleted Mallorca from the list of clubs accepted for the Play-off Round and offered their place  to Villarreal. This action was taken because over the summer Mallorca had gone into the Spanish equivalent of Administration, using the Ley Concursal to declare themselves effectively bankrupt.

Such has been the European prowess of Villarreal over the past few seasons that Paddy Power immediately inserted them as 5th favourites for the Europa League behind only big guns Juventus, Manchester City, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid.

The Play-off Round draw was kind to Villarreal pairing them with Dnepr Mogilev from Bielorussia. Of the 74 teams involved in the Play-off Round Villarreal were ranked 3rd top under the UEFA coefficient system based on recent performance. Mogilev were ranked 3rd bottom, 72nd  worst of the 74 teams. 

The immensity of that gap proved to be accurate over the two legs. Mogilev were so poor that even the most disillusioned Celtic supporter would have felt confident in putting their house on Celtic to beat this team. And would have got his money back.

GGW had predicted that Celtic would be too strong for Utrecht, a sentiment shared by 90% of Utrecht even after the first leg. Celtic threw it away in the second leg, being craven and incompetent beyond belief, to the surprise and delight of an astonished Utrecht and their delirious supporters. And Barry Maguire delivered on his promise of driving Celtic to the ‘eve of destruction’ with a cracking goal.  Reality returned to Utrecht that weekend as they were hammered 4-0 by Twente in their league game, a reminder that they are not secret world beaters, just a decent enough team very lucky to get Celtic at their absolute worst.

But even that dire Celtic performance would have been enough to see off Dnepr from Bielorrussia. Villarreal spanked them 5-0 in the first leg at the Madrigal literally without breaking sweat on a warm Spanish evening. So overwhelming had been the superiority of the Yellow Submarine, that manager Garrido felt safe enough to send his new recruits from the Cantera to make their European debuts for Villarreal, leaving 5 of their star players in Spain and 4 others on the bench. Again it was really no contest with Villarreal winning 2-1 to end up victors on a 7-1 aggregate, one of the biggest of the round.

The Group Stage draw paired Villarreal, as top seeds, with Bruges, Dynamo Zagreb and PAOK Salonica. I know from my work on my book about the relationship between Celtic and Villarreal that a fair number of Celtic supporters have in the past gone to Villarreal’s  European games, particularly when Celtic have been eliminated.

So the dates to look out for are 16th September in Zagreb,  4th November in Salonika and  15th December  in Brugeswhich is probably the most realistic venue for a quick trip over. The three home legs are 30th September , 21st October  and 2nd December. A very warm welcome is guaranteed to those Celtic supporters who decide to take in any one of the home games, including free beer in the Celtic Submari Penya. So anyone  who had put some money aside to follow Celtic in Europe this season could do worse than follow the Yellow Submarine. GGW will report regularly on Villarreal’s campaign in the Europa League.

Bad News

The main bad news is that Villarreal lost the first game of the new La Liga season, an eminently winnable away trip to Real Sociedad. Villarreal are a far superior team with far better players but a combination of managerial over-caution and bad luck led them to end up losing 1-0. Given that nearest rivals Valencia and Sevilla both won away from home against equally weak opposition, this was a very poor start to the campaign for one of the top 4 Champions League slots.

(continue reading…)

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Celtic on the Eve of Destruction says Barry Maguire

Barry Maguire qualifies for Eire

 Young Utrecht midfielder Barry Maguire believes that the pressures on Celtic in their upcoming Europa League tie will be much greater than on his own team Utrecht, since failure to qualify for Europe this season would leave Celtic on the Eve of Destruction. Utrecht are not expected to qualify so the pressure on them will be much less, which Maguire believes could give the men in red and white an advantage. Maguire, a promising young player, should be of particular interest to Celtic supporters given his links with the Republic of Ireland. Although he regards himself as Dutch and proud of it, through his Irish father Maguire is eligible to play for Eire. In January 2009 he was selected for the Eire Under 21 squad but withdrew the day before the game saying he still hoped to play for Holland one day. Maybe the tricolours on show at Celtic Park might help him reconsider his allegiances.

The second level of joke allusion in the title and opening paragraph of this article will almost certainly be lost on most of the GGW readers, who probably weren’t even born in 1965 when “Eve of Destruction” became the most political ever number one hit song, with its heartfelt worries about the consequences of war and nuclear weapons on the future of the human race. If you don’t know the song, either get your rocker grandfather to play it for you or google ‘Barry McGuire Eve of Destruction’ and listen to it. Then remember that failure to qualify for Europe though a disaster is not really the end of the world.

FC Utrecht underachievers hampwered by debt

Utrecht are the great underachievers of Dutch football. They come from the fourth largest Dutch city but have never remotely equalled the big three, Ajax Amsterdam, Feyenoord Rotterdam and PSV Eindhoven, who have all won the European Cup/Champions League as well as many Dutch titles and Cups. Utrecht have won the Dutch League only once, in 1958, as DOS Utrecht before the 1970 amalgamation produced one single Utrecht club, FC Utrecht. They have won the Dutch Cup three times, most recently in 2003 and 2004. But that team was ripped apart by debts of over 40 million euros and Utrecht have never recovered financially or on the park. When you consider the paralysing effect of a £30million debt on Rangers, then it is no surprise Utrecht have struggled to overcome their level of debt. It has been left to smaller clubs like AZ from Alkmaar and Twente from Enscede to provide the opposition to the Big 3, the “best of the rest” that Utrecht feels is their birthright. Like Rangers Utrecht are not really in a position to sign players and other than two young Australians unlikely to face Celtic, the side has not been strengthened for the prospect of European football. Indeed the squad has been weakened from last season with the loss of several experienced squad members.

(continue reading…)

Last word on the Braga fiasco


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

Braga-ing rights still up for grabs

Braga 3-0 up but not definitely through

Greengreenworld made a classic mathematician’s error in its last post “Celtic to get Braga-ing rights”. It concentrated on a thorough examination of one side of an equation while making only a sloppy assumption about the other side. Even after last Wednesday’s performance against Celtic which resulted in that 3-0 win, GGW sticks with its conclusion that Braga are not as good a team as they were last season. GGW is confident they will not finish in the Top 3 of the Portuguese League this coming season and would happily take bets on that topic from any Celtic supporter who feels otherwise. Braga are a decent, well-organised team who play to a defined pattern and work hard to implement the instructions of their top class coach. But they have no top class players, they lack creative inspiration and they have no natural goalscorers upfront. If they qualify for the Playoff Round of the Champions League none of the seeded teams will fear being drawn against them. In assuming Celtic should prevail against them, GGW made certain assumptions. One was that the Celtic of this new season would be a better team than the Celtic of last season. GGW assumed that this improvement in one side coupled with the deterioration in the other, would tip the balance of what last season would have been a tie that Braga might have been expected to win, into a situation where Celtic would be seen a s the more likely to prevail. Part of this expectation was based on the assumption that Celtic’s close season recruitment was of a significantly better quality than Braga’s. Cha Du-Ri , Efrain Juarez, Joe Ledley and Daryl Murphy have much more class and international experience than Leandro Salino, Rodrigo Lima, Elderson and Helder Barbosa. Indeed Elderson, a Nigerian, is the only one with any international experience. Another assumption made was that Celtic’s quality of pre-match friendly games was against sufficiently better opposition than Braga’s had been. Teams like Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon and two match fit MLS sides Philidelphia and Seattle were all better than Athletic Bilbao the only serious opposition faced by Braga. But the most important assumptions were that new manager Lennon would have worked out that he had the better side and send his team out mentally and physically prepared and organised to prove their superiority, and that they would work harder than the Portuguese to get the kind of result their superiority warranted. (continue reading…)

Celtic should get “Braga-ing” rights ok. Braga not as good as last season

The resemblance to Arsenal is deliberate - but ends with the strip

Braga do not have a playing squad brimming with international class talent. There was not a single current internationalist in the squad for the Presentation Game against Athletic Bilbao that was their main preparation game for the tie against Celtic now fixed for Wednesday 28th July in their AXA Stadium.

In building their squad Braga have relied on the close links between Brazil and Portugal and no less than 15 of the squad likely to face Celtic were born in Brazil. But none of them are good enough ever to have played for the country of their birth.

 There is no doubt that last season, 2009-2010 Braga were a team that played football that was both effective and attractive. But that team has been dismantled. International class goalkeeper Eduardo has been sold to Genoa. The two classy attacking full backs, Joao Pereira and Evaldo have both been sold to Sporting Lisbon. Most importantly the midfielder behind their most constructive plays, Hugo Viana has left, recalled by Valencia. Valencia do not want him but neither Braga nor even Sporting Lisbon who expressed a strong interest, can afford to buy him. His spell in the United Kingdom with Newcastle United was not a total success but Viana is that rare creature a creative midfield player capable of bursts of genius and Neil Lennon could do worse than consider him as a more constructive and harder working option than McGeady or Nakamura. To add to Braga’s midfield loss, Viana’s water carrier from last season, Mossoro, is seriously injured and will not play against Celtic. So 5 of last season’s team have gone, including their 3 international class players. And the good news from Celtic’s point of view is that not only do the individual replacements not have the same class, the effect of the loss on the team’s cohesion and understanding has been considerable. (continue reading…)

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Celtic get the best Champions League draw available, Braga it is then

Braga SC the best available opponents

Well the wish expressed by GGW in its post “Celtic’s Champions League opponents – Definitely the last word” of 31st May 2010 came true. Celtic have been drawn against Sporting Braga and in the correct order too, with first leg in Braga on 27/28th July and the second leg at Celtic Park on 3rd/  4thAugust.

The good news is that Braga will not be as good or strong  a team as they were last season, during which they gave Benfica a good run for their money taking the contest for the  Portuguese League right down to the last day. Braga impressed with an attractive version of attacking football.

However, since then Braga have lost their international class goalkeeper, Eduardo to Genoa. They have also lost both their first choice full backs, Joao Pereira and Evaldo to Sporting Lisbon. The creative engine of their midfield Hugo Viana was only on loan last season from Valencia while his future has not yet been definitively settled it looks unlikely that he will be returning to Braga.

Helder Barbosa not as signing to terrify Celtic

 Braga have replaced the lost players with a whole swathe of signings but this splurge should not cause Celtic any great concern. None of the new intake are of the top class, none of them are international stars like Cha Du Ri or Juarez or even Ledley or Murphy. The best known and most experienced of their signings, goalkeeper Quim from Benfica, has been seriously injured in pre-season training and will definitely not be fit to face Celtic. Of the rest, some are capable defenders like Leo Fortunato from Cruzeiro, George Lucas from Santos and Eduardo from Botafogo, others pedestrian forwards like Lima and Helder Barbosa who between them did not even score 10 goals last season. They have also signed youngsters like the Senegalese forward Ladj Keita and the Nigerian defender Ehiejile and from Villarreal reserves young Spanish forward Jose Collado.

As well as Quim they also have lost midfielder Mossoro through injury for the Celtic ties. With Mossoro injured and Viana gone, their midfield looks much less incisive than last season and the only new recruit, Leandro Salino is unlikely to effectively replace either missing link.

 Braga or likely to play a fluid 4:4:2 formation. The key men Lennon’s scouts should watch out for are Brazilian midfielders Alan and Vandinho who will be given more leadership responsibility in Viana’s absence. Main striker Ze Meyong flopped at Levante and while happier back in Portugal he should not cause an organised Celtic defence many problems. It will be difficult to determine exactly what players Braga will select to face Celtic until after their traditional pre-season presentation game on Wednesday 21st July against Athletic Bilbao. GGW will report following that game on the likely Braga line-up for the game on the 27th in Braga.

Braga will be a new face on the Braga bench too. The latest recruit Fernando Couto should be familiar to most Celtic fans as a rugged and slightly mad centre back who won league titles  in 3 different countries with Porto, Lazio and Barcelona in a long and successful international career.

Fernando Couto and Lennon have much in common. Couto has no previous managerial experience but his knowledge and experience of European football is greater than Lennon’s. Both men had a long and successful international careers. Both men were seen as falling slightly short of the very top class due to deficiencies in technique and temperament. But both men were widely admired as warriors and as winners. Couto won more than Lennon, winning championship medals in three different countries Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Couto represented Braga at Friday’s UEFA draw and made the right polite noises about what difficult opponents Celtic represented. But he was careful to point out also that Braga would be difficult opponents for Celtic. While there is likely to be some dramatic eyeballing between Couto and Lennon, the two games will not be a tactical contest between them rather one of wills. Braga have a coach, Domingos Pacienca, who masterminded their successes and attractive football last season. He is still in charge of the team selection and tactics. It will surely be a source of wry amusement to Lawwell, Reid, Desmond and others  that Fernando Couto has been appointed to the kind of role the Celtic Directors had in mind for Stuart Baxter, that of Football Director.  The next two weeks should be an interesting opportunity to see how much benefit such a role brings to Braga and whether Celtic and Lennon will suffer for it not being replicated on their side.

Braga Stadium. Spectacular but more Broadwood than Celtic Park

 Those Celtic fans who are planning to travel to Braga should enjoy the stadium. It was dynamited out of a hillside rock quarry in time for the 2004 Euro Championships and is a spectacular sight but it has more in common with open-ended Broadwood than enclosed Celtic Park.

GGW will provide a more detailed report on Braga’s likely formation and tactical approach after Wednesday. However even at this point, while Braga will be no mugs, and should not be taken likely, Celtic must be seen as the favourite’s to progress from this tie. Such a victory would guarantee them participation in the Group Stages of at least the Europa League even if they were to subsequently lose in the final Championds League Play-off Round.

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    GreenGreenWorld is a football blog produced by SISIF, (the Sherbrooke Institute for the Study of International Football). The SISIF Director, Sandy Jamieson, has been an active student of world football for over 40 years and has an extensive network of information, knowledge and contacts in Europe, South America and the rest of the football world. Although SISIF is based in Glasgow, Sandy currently spends most time at his home in Spain where he is finishing a book about Villarreal, “The Yellow Submarine”. He is a writer/consultant and his previously published novels “Own Goal” and “The Great Escape?” are available from Ringwood Publishing or Amazon. Mainstream published his previous book on Scottish football.
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