Celtic will be without the instrumental Kris Commons for the visit of Dutch masters Ajax. Commons injured his hamstring during the 1-1 draw at Hibernian on Saturday, and his loss is a blow for boss Neil Lennon.
Celtic are already without the services of skipper Scott Brown who is suspended after his dismissal against Barcelona. Adam Matthews (shoulder) and former Ajax man Derk Boerrigter (ankle) are also ruled out, while there are doubts over Mikael Lustig (hip) and Emilio Izaguirre (illness).
“We don’t think it’s a tear, but if it is a strain it’s a couple of weeks, so it’s definitely not looking good for Tuesday. Losing Kris is a huge blow. He has been fantastic for us this season” Lennon said.
“He’s at the top of his game and in great physical condition, so if he is out it will be a big loss.”
With neither side registering a victory in Group H yet this is very much a must-win game for both sides if either is to realistically challenge for a place in the first knockout round. Indeed both teams will be looking to take six points off the other over the next two rounds of matches and then hope to get a win against either Milan or Barca to take them to nine points – which may still not be enough.
In effect this is Celtic’s easiest game in a group of no easy games.
“We can’t lose it, put it that way,” said Lennon.
“We are four points worse off in the group than we were at this stage last season. We have a bit of work to do.”
Frank De Boer’s side come into this game also on the back of a 1-1 away draw, having taken a point at FC Twente in the Eredivisie on Saturday. Niklas Moisander sat out that encounter but is expected to be fit to face the Bhoys.
If You Know Your History…
Ajax won the clubs’ first encounter in the 1970/71 European Cup quarter-finals en route to lifting the trophy for the first time. Johan Cruyff, Barrie Hulshoff and Piet Keizer scored in a 3-0 first-leg win in Amsterdam, with Jimmy Johnstone’s solitary goal in the return not enough for Celtic.
But Celtic got revenge a decade later by dumping Ajax out of the first round of the same competition after two memorable games, with Celtic current first-team coach Danny McGrain playing in both matches.
The first leg had a frenetic start with four goals in the first half an hour, the Danish duo of Jesper Olsen and Soren Lerby on target for the visitors, scoring either side of a Charlie Nicholas penalty kick. Frank McGarvey equalised for the home side on 29 minutes but that turned out to be the final goal of the first leg.
Sept 15th 1982, Celtic Park CELTIC 2-2 AJAX
Goals: Olsen (5) 0-1, Nicholas (14, Pen) 1-1, Lerby (19) 1-2, McGarvey (29) 2-2.
Pat Bonner – Thomas McAdam, Danny McGrain, David Moyes, Mark Reid – Tommy Burns, Murdo MacLeod, Paul McStay – Frank McGarvey, Charlie Nicholas, David Provan
Manager: Billy McNeill
Hans Galjé – Peter Boeve, Keje Molenaar, Edo Ophof, Gerald Vanenburg – Johan Cruyff, Sören Lerby, Jan Mölby, Jesper Olsen, Dick Schoenaker – Leo van Veen
Coach: Aad de Mos
Celtic went on to win 1-2 in Amsterdam a fortnight later to progress 4-3 on aggregate with George McCluskey scoring a last minute winner moments after Cruyff had gone off to a rapturous ovation. Charlie Nicholas had given Celtic the lead with a glorious chip in the first half before Vanenburg equalised after 65 minutes.
It was the stuff of fairytales for McCluskey, which was topped-off afterwards as he recalls here; “I remember going into their dressing room after the game trying to swap my jersey but every one of them had their heads down. They all said no, and told me to get out, but as I was going out Cruyff was lying having a massage on the table.
“He shouted on me, took his top off and said he would swap with me because I scored a great goal. I didn’t want any of the other tops after that, I got the main man’s…”
All in all it was a memorable night for Scottish football as all four clubs in Europe progressed; Rangers defeated Borussia Dortmund, Dundee United knocked out PSV Eindhoven and Aberdeen went through against Dinamo Tirana – Those were the days…
CELTIC: 6/4 DRAW: 11/5 AJAX: 15/8
Celtic 2-2 Ajax: 14/1
Celtic 1-0: 15/2
Come From Behind & Win: Celtic – 17/2 Ajax 10/1
Samaras – 7/1 De Jong- 15/2
Odds courtesy of William Hill