By Christopher Duffy
In the grand scale of the Champions League, never has a match been so insignificant, but yet so significant at the same time. As Celtic prepare to take on Manchester City in their Group C swan song at the Etihad Stadium tonight, it’s all about pride.
But not only is it a matter of pride for Celtic, but a matter of making a statement as well. A strong performance tonight would lay down a marker ahead of next season’s inevitable Champions League qualifiers, while proving that Celtic do indeed belong with the elite of European football.
While Celtic are resigned to finishing bottom of Group C and crashing out of Europe altogether, Manchester City cannot improve on their guaranteed second place finish.
Celtic aren’t the only team with something to play for though, as Manchester City will also be looking to prove a point after the thrilling 3-3 draw at Celtic Park in September, as well as wanting to make amends for their 3-1 collapse against Chelsea on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola arguably had very little need to risk any of his big guns tonight, until Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho picked up red cards against Chelsea. Nicolas Otamendi may also be given some game time tonight, due to his suspension for City’s up-and-coming trip to Leicester on Saturday.
Both Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho will be available for tonights game, as their suspensions only apply to domestic football.
It very much looks like a squad rotation job for Guardiola though, with the likes of goalkeeper Caballero, Leroy Sane and Fabian Delph set to start as Guardiola looks to utilise his squad depth.
Pep Guardiola’s side were outclassed by Chelsea at the Etihad on Saturday afternoon, and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers could have been inspired by Chelsea mangers Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation.
Celtic meanwhile rallied from being 2-0 against Motherwell to run out eventual 4-3 winners. The win maintained Celtic’s unbeaten league form, with Tom Rogic’s last minute strike maintaining Celtic’s gap at the top of the table.
Celtic defender Erik Sviatchenko and striker Leigh Griffiths return to the team, having missed out on the trip to Motherwell through illness.
Scott Sinclair remains sidelined with the hamstring injury that he sustained against Barcelona almost a fortnight ago. Kieran Tierney will return to action in the New Year after undergoing surgery on his ankle and shoulder.
As Celtic look to salvage one last memorable night before their Champions League exit, Lewis Kemp spoke to football fans about their thoughts ahead of tonight’s game;
Manchester City Predicted XI (4-5-1): Caballero, Zabaleta, Adarabioyo, Otamendi, Clichy; Fernando, Delph; Sane, Ihenacho, Nolito; Aguero.
Celtic Predicted XI (3-4-3): Gordon, Lustig, Simunovic, Sviatchenko; Brown, Armstrong, McGregor, Rogic; Roberts, Dembele, Forrest.