Celtic face a huge task to overcome an Atletico team featuring Falcao, Diego and a revived Reyes...
An Unprepared Atlético Madrid
As per the norm for a club that isn’t one of the most organised in the world, Atlético did their summer recruiting very late indeed. For this reason, only manager Gregorio Manzano knows what eleven he will be starting with against Celtic. The extremely expensive striker, Falcao, has only played the one league game whilst on-loan Brazilian, Diego, only came onto the pitch in Saturday’s defeat to Valencia in the second-half.
Nevertheless, whatever eleven footballers trot out for Atlético Madrid, it will be tough for Celtic claimed Neil Lennon ahead of the game. “They have really quality,” enthused the Celtic boss, who seemed to be one of the small band of managers who actually enjoys the Europa League.
An Excellent José Antonio Reyes
A player who would have been called up to his national side, last season, if it weren’t for the pesky fact that the winger is in a queue behind about 15 midfielders. Reyes was arguably Atlético’s most consistent performer last season and Manzano will be looking to the incomprehensible Andalusian to supply his strikers who have yet to hit the back of the net this year in la Primera.
A Formidable Falcao
Costing a good €40m and with the unenviable job of taking over from Kun Agüero, there are huge expectations from the Atlético Madrid fans for the former Porto striker to deliver. The omens are certainly good for Falcao on Thursday night in the Europa League as the headband-wearing hitman banged in 17 goals in last season’s competition.
A 1974 Flashback
There was a bit of niggle in a meeting between the two sides in a European Cup semi-final clash in 1974 which saw three red cards for Atlético Madrid players. Comments that Atlético were “scum” from Billy McNeill in the Scottish press compared to the “aristocracy of Real Madrid” were widely reported in Spain. However, both coaches have been keen to ensure that there is no spill-over from the spat with Lennon soothing that “McNeill is a great figure for Celtic, but what he said has no relevance for today.” “I read it and have not stopped feeling that it’s a story in the past,” said Gregorio Manzano.
Sun Block for Neil Lennon
The Celtic players will be going from hurricanes to extreme heat in just a few days. At about four in the afternoon at the moment, Madrid is wave angry fist, screaming ‘why God, why?’ hot. Mid 30’s hot, in fact. That sizzling temperature will only drop a teeny bit at 9.05pm when Thursday’s Europa League clash kicks off.
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