Former Celtic striker Charlie Nicholas has backed the Hoops to get a result in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 match away to FC Copenhagen on Thursday but feels that Neil Lennon’s side still show “vulnerability” in away matches in Europe.
After winning their group earlier in the competition, the Scottish champions will be at home for the second leg of the tie against the Danish outfit, who beat Celtic on their last visit to the Parken Stadion in an albeit inconsequential Champions League group match in 2006.
The Hoops needed a late Kristoffer Ajer goal to defeat Aberdeen at the weekend and, despite winning all nine of their games since the winter break, Nicholas has warned them to expect a much sterner challenge against Copenhagen.
In predicting the tie for Sky Sports, he forecast a 1-1 draw and said: “Because Celtic are going so well domestically, they must focus and prepare correctly for this clash. They did not play well but got the win at Aberdeen, and this is a remarkable team for getting themselves out of holes. Copenhagen have lost three in a row, and there are a few players struggling with injury.
“I expect Celtic to go through over two legs and they are favourites. Celtic have improved in Europe, taking the scalps of Lazio twice was a big turning point for them. There is still vulnerability away from home in Europe, so it is how they manage that which will be the key.”
Nicholas correctly alludes to the contrasting form being shown by the two teams, although he is slightly mistaken with his statement on Copenhagen, who have actually lost two of their last three matches. However, his point is still a pertinent one, especially as Staale Solbakken’s men were defeated by lowly Esbjerg in their previous game coming into this tie. The Sky Sports pundit is also right to reference the injury concerns facing the Danish outfit, with potent attackers Jonas Wind and Viktor Fischer currently sidelined.
However, Nicholas is perhaps overstating Celtic’s apparent “vulnerability” in away matches on the continent. The Hoops have already had seven away fixtures in UEFA competitions this season and won four of them, including a 4-1 thrashing of AIK and, as he mentioned, a first competitive win in Italy against Lazio. Their only defeat on the road in Europe came against CFR Cluj in their last Europa League outing when they had already ensured top spot in Group E and Lennon fielded a much-changed line-up (as per Sky Sports).
Celtic’s away record at this stage of the competition has not been good – they have exited after defeats on the road to Valencia, Zenit St Petersburg and Inter Milan in recent years in the round of 32 – but their away form in Europe this season has been impressive and, considering their form in contrast to Copenhagen’s and the injury problems for the Danish side, the Hoops should be strong enough to get a result on the road on Thursday and fulfil Nicholas’ prediction of advancing to the last 16.
Celtic fans, what’s your take on Nicholas’ prediction for the Copenhagen clash? How do you see Thursday’s game playing out for the Hoops? Let us know by commenting below!Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!
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