Former Celtic midfielder Paul Hartley has backed the Hoops to get the better of FC Copenhagen in tonight’s Europa League last 32 second round clash at Parkhead.
Neil Lennon’s side drew 1-1 in Denmark last Thursday and will definitely progress if they keep a clean sheet. That is the only one of the 11 matches they have played since the winter break that they have not won, with the Cove Rangers manager highlighting Lennon’s change to a 3-5-2 as a key factor in their excellent start to 2020.
Although captain Scott Brown is an injury doubt for tonight’s match, Hartley feels that his former club will have enough about them to advance. He told the Daily Record: “Having watched them since the turn of the year, they have a great chance. They’re in good form and they have that vital away goal after a good performance last week, particularly in the first half. I like the way they’re playing.
“Changing their system to 3-5-2 seems to have suited them so, especially with that crowd behind them, I’d expect them to win. Losing their captain – if Scott Brown does miss out – would be a big blow but they have enough quality in their squad to bring someone else in without losing too much.”
Hartley is right in saying that the switch to 3-5-2 appears to have benefitted Celtic, judging by the string of results they have put together since the mid-season break. Eight consecutive Premiership victories have seen their two-point lead going into the New Year pushed out to 12 points currently, while the goals have been flowing freely since Lennon began playing two up top. They have scored 33 times in their 10 games so far this year, hitting three or more goals in seven of those and only once scoring fewer than two goals – even if that was in the first leg against Copenhagen (as per TransferMarkt).
The jury remains out on Hartley’s comment about how much Celtic would miss Brown, as the skipper has sat out only three of the Hoops’ 49 matches this season. They managed to win 3-1 against Kilmarnock at the weekend without him, with the only other games he has missed coming at the start of the Betfred Cup campaign against Dunfermline and in the meaningless Europa League group defeat to CFR Cluj. [via TransferMarkt]
On a positive note for Celtic, they won each of their group games at Parkhead and, as Hartley has said, they go into tonight’s match in flying form. That is in contrast to their opponents, who have failed to win their last four matches in all competitions and recently dropped points to Danish Superligaen strugglers Esbjerg and Silkeborg. Also, with the Hoops level in the tie and taking an away goal with them into tonight’s clash, they seem well placed to follow through on their former midfielder’s confident prediction.
Celtic fans, what did you make of Hartley’s views on tonight’s match? Let us know what you think by commenting below!
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