Respected Serie A writer Adam Digby puts down his Panettone and looks at the tactics employed by Crewe manager Dario Gradi in their 5-1 win over Bradford City.

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The second Yorkshire Football Weekend did not start well. Once arriving in South Emsall with around an hour to go before kick-off we discovered the local pub at the station “The Plough” was temporarily closed. Gasping for a pint we decided to head towards the ground.

After a delightful ten minute stroll in the sun Norman and I arrived at the Tech 5 stadium, home of Frickley Athletic. Establish back in 1910 as part of the Frickley Colliery, the mines may be gone but there was still a very nice quaint feel about the club as we entered the ground.

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When you’re down at the bottom of the table, you need some degree of luck on your side when you come up against the better teams in league. However if you don’t work hard at the basics and give a team space to play you will be punished, and that is exactly what happened to Hibs on Saturday.

With the pressure on both sides as the teams emerged from the Easter Road tunnel there were a couple of interesting selection choices from either manager. The home side started with Derek Riordan and Merouane Zemmama upfront, a strange choice with neither known as an out and out striker; Calderwood will have hoped their movement could cause problems to the Celtic defence.

Neil Lennon welcomed back Gary Hooper to the Celtic frontline and partnered him with Anthony Stokes in attack, relief for the Irishman after his frustrating lone role against Hamilton on Wednesday. Scott Brown started in place of Joe Ledley in the middle of the park, hoping the Scot would add more bite to team.

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After the awful performance and result against Wolves on Wednesday it seems that the Liverpool fans have called time on the managerial reign of Roy Hodgson. The defeat leaves the proud club only three points off the relegation places and eleven points adrift of European football.

Last season’s seventh place finish was bad enough for the fans but they still qualified for the Europa League which is the bare minimum they will accept. The prospect of missing out altogether would be a disaster.

It would seem the fans no longer want Roy in charge of their team, the body language and attitude of players would suggest they no longer want him in charge either, as soon as you lose the dressing room is it not time to pack up and go?

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The coldness of winter descended into West Yorkshire this evening and it wasn’t just the 19,000 Leeds United fans that will need some warming up before taking on their next 90 minutes, with only one win in five matches and two defeats in a row at Elland Road maybe the last team Simon Grayson would have wanted to face on a cold Monday night would have been Dave Jones red hot Cardiff City, six games unbeaten four wins in a row, a win would take them level on points with pace setters Queens Park Rangers a top the Championship table.

Leeds made three changes from the side that won 2-1 at Middlesbrough, Bradley Johnson replacing Sanchez Watt on the left of midfield and Richard Naylor losing his place to Alex Bruce, Naylor’s form has been questionable as of late but manager Simon Grayson was quick to point out the club captain was injured. Leeds fans also welcomed the return of Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Cardiff team remained the same after the 2-1 win at Coventry.

Grayson set up his side in a 4-4-2 formation. George McCartney on loan from Sunderland at Left Back, Paul Connolly on the right with the Centre Back pairing of Alex Bruce and Neill Collins. Johnny Howson and Amdy Faye in the midfield flanked by Johnson on the left and Robert Snodgrass on the right. Luciano Becchio partnered the inform Davide Somma upfront, Somma has six goals already this season.

Cardiff also lined up in 4-4-2. Tom Heaton in goal, Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson, Gabor Gyepes and Lee Naylor made up the back line. Seyi Olofinjana and Peter Whittingham played centrally, Chris Burke on the right and Craig Bellamy on the left. Michael Chopra partnered 7 goal striker Jay Bothroyd upfront.

It was a very scrappy opening ten minutes, both teams struggling to get their foot on the ball and as a result there was no rhythm to the match. Cardiff began to take the upper hand the good play of Chris Burke down the right causing Leeds problems his appetite for taking on defenders was evident to see.

Against the run of play Leeds had the first clear chance when Alex Bruce headed just wide from a corner, this seemed to spur Leeds on and they began to control more of the game, feeding the ball wide Johnson and Snodgrass fed balls into the box however Hudson and Gyepes had the measure of the Leeds attack and won most aerial battles comfortably. Captain Jonny Howson should have tested Heaton when the ball broke kindly on the edge of the box; the skipper struck the ball well but also wide.

Much comment was made about centre back Bruce playing in front of Schmeichel in net, a reference to the old Manchester United team of the past, this was a different United however. A long punt up field from Heaton, Bruce let the ball bounce, Schmeichel lost sight of the ball and Bothroyd nipped in to sneak the ball past both and into the net. The image of Steve Bruce in the stands said plenty about the quality of defending.

Cardiff turned the screw and with an obvious pace advantage the Leeds back four struggled at times to keep up, Bellamy causing problems down the left, Burke impressive on the right, Chopra at time went missing but Bothroyd’s work rate more than made up for it.

One talking point in the first half was Jay Bothroyds tackle on Becchio his studs were high and he made contact with the Leeds strikers ankle, nine times out of ten the striker would have saw red, at game speed the tackle looked reckless. In slow motion you could clearly see the contact made, the referee can be forgiven for not seeing the incident as at the moment of contact Robert Snodgrass clearly impeded his view of the incident, Bothroyd lucky to stay on the pitch.

When not in possession the Cardiff midfield worked very hard to win the ball back, harrying every Leeds player who touched the ball, the home sides midfield lacked the pace and ability on the ball to make a difference, Cardiff were worthy leaders going into the half time break. A chance for Grayson to regain his team’s composure and figure a way to combat the Cardiff attack.

Unfortunately whatever teamtalk Grayson gave his side it was the away team that emerged all guns blazing, within six minutes Cardiff increased their lead. Hudson caught Somma in possession his pass found Chopra in what looked like an offside position; the striker didn’t hesitate though firing across Schmeichel and into the corner. Leeds defence were slow to react once the pass was made, Chopra was sharply onto the ball and for a striker with no goals so far this season the finish was deadly.

Leeds looked bereft of ideas the formation with two upfront did not work, Somma and Becchio are good players, however they are two similar in styles and instead of striking up a partnership they looked lost, a more effective strategy would be to play 4-2-3-1 and have a more mobile forward or midfielder play behind Somma or Becchio. The Beckford/Becchio partnership worked because of the contrasting styles of both players.

Grayson must have had similar thoughts as Somma was replaced not long after the goal and Honduran International Ramon Nunez made his debut, small but stocky he looked comfortable in possession seems to have a yard of pace, the kind of player that could link up well with a target man in front of him.

Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Leeds United v Cardiff City - Elland RoadBothroyd put the game beyond Leeds before the substitute had chance to make an impact, terrific work from Bothroyd saw him advance down the right, his pass to Burke led the Scotsman to the by-line, the striker had continued his run into the box, Burke found him with the cut back and in this form he wasn’t going to miss, 3-0 to Cardiff and the game was all but over.

Four minutes later and it was ex-Celtic fullback Lee Naylor who rubbed salt into the wounds, after strong forward play by Bothroyd the ball was worked through Bellamy to Naylor at the edge of the box, known for his ability with his left foot, he decided to surprise everyone and unleashed an unstoppable shot with his right, Schmeichel was rooted to the spot as the ball whistled past his right ear, the contest was over.

The introduction of Max Gradel on the left for Leeds gave them two players with Nunez able to hold onto the ball and take some of the pressure off their defence, Cardiff defended well, limiting Leeds to shots from range, they did have the ball in the net late on, Snodgrass weaving his way into some space on the right the left foot cross found Becchio unmarked, the header found the net, the linesman correctly raised his flag.

The only other shining light for the home fans was the play of midfielder Jonny Howson, unfortunately the only mention he ever gets on TV is his love of the club “Leeds born and bred” “No one feels the defeat more.” Behind this lies a talented player, good on the ball, quick feet that allow his to beat players, a cultured left foot that can spray passes and also find the target with a few goals. Four goals last season, there is ability in there to add more.

The night belonged to Cardiff; their system was much more fluid than Leeds. Bothroyd, Chopra and Bellamy all have the ability to go wide or come inside, Whittingham can wander all over the pitch and cause problems, and since his move down south Chris Burke looks like a player reborn. Some questions why Bellamy was out on the wing and not partnering Bothroyd, it seems he is far more dangerous from this wide starting position, able to drift inside and finish with accuracy or stay wide to use his still electric pace and cause full backs no end of troubles.

Dave Jones has built an impressive side, they will be hard to beat this season as most teams have already discovered, usually on the cusp of promotion via the playoffs, this year when it comes to May, Cardiff will more than likely by the hunted not the hunter at the top of the Championship table.

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Over the next 24 hours you will hear all the stereotypical clichés in football “form goes out the window” “it’s a battle of who wants it more” etc etc. This is a very arcyic view of modern day football, with the lush playing surfaces and players in peak physical condition it is no longer a “battle of the fittest” it’s a tactical battle played under extreme pressure, and no match in Britain if not the world comes close to the pressure of an Old Firm derby.

In a way you can throw form out the window as both teams have 100% records. Rangers have a slight edge in the goals scored column, but Celtic even that up with fewer goals conceded. This will be manager Neil Lennon’s second Old Firm in charge although last season’s meant very little as the title was already gone. Lennon is likely to pick seven players for their Old Firm debuts this could put a little advantage the way of Walter Smith’s side, all of Walter’s predicted starting line-up have played in an Old Firm game before and of course Walter himself has an amazing record in this fixture.

Rangers will most likely line up with five in the midfield 4-5-1 would possibly be Smith’s preferred formation for this fixture, leaving Kenny Miller to run the line on his own preferring to pack the midfield and hit Celtic on the counter attack. Celtic’s formation of late has been a fluid 4-4-2 with Antony Stokes playing wide right his instincts push him far forward leaving Wilson exposed at times down the Celtic right. This game will be won in midfield, it would be very surprising if Lennon picked Ki Sung-Yung and Joe Ledley in the centre of midfield putting them against McCulloch, Davis and Edu would be a very tough ask. More likely the Mexican Efrain Juarez will return to the centre and his stamina and hard working ethics combined with his ability on the ball would give the Celtic midfield more dig and bite and someone who can put their foot on the ball and control the play.

Samaras as he always does will drop back into the midfield looking for the ball, this will occupy McCulloch, leaving Maloney, Stokes and Hooper to take on the Rangers back four. Leaving Samaras time to create chances could be lethal for Rangers, although he is a very frustrating player to watch and many chances go to waste the Greek has unquestionable talent and eventually he will make you pay, it will be Lee McCulloch’s job to keep him under wraps.

In recent weeks Rangers have shown great ability to break forward at pace, Naismith, Miller and either Lafferty or Weiss will again look to capitalise on any loose balls Celtic may gift them and charge forward look to expose the weaknesses of Loovens and Mastrojovic at the back, the duo are untouchable in the air but can be susceptible against pace. Miller will play on the shoulder of the last defender looking for any sniff of a chance and how would he love to score a goal back at Celtic Park, giving the form he is in the odds will be short to see his name on the scoresheet.

Don’t let the tabloids fool you, tactics matter in every game, this match will be full of interesting battles at both ends of the pitch, the team that wins the majority of these battles will win the match.

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Bayern Munich struggling in 10th travelled to the Imtech Arena to take on 5th place Hamburg. Louis van Gaal unable to pick Robben, van Bommel, Klose or Ribery stuck to his 4-2-3-1 formation, Ukrainian midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk continued in the centre of defence alongside Holger Badstuber. Danijel Pranjić at left back, Ottl and Altintop in midfield gave the team a patched up look.

Armin Veh playing 4-4-2 with Trochowski in the hole behind the front pairing of Guerrero and van Nistlerooy, the manager was also boosted by the inclusion of Mladen Petric on the bench back from injury the home fans would have been confident in taking on the Munich giants.

After a very sluggish start to the game from both sides Hamburg began to put their foot on the ball. Bayern’s tactic was to play a high defensive line trying to squeeze the game and restrict the time Hamburg’s players had on the ball.

It worked well and they continually won the ball back with ease, the problem being there was no quality to any of Bayern’s passes so the ball was given away far too often and Hamburg continued to heap on the pressure.

Without the ball Bayern’s defence sat very narrow, Lahm and Pranjić tucking inside to protect the makeshift central partnership, Collin Benjamin and Marcell Jansen used this to their advantage, constantly finding plenty of space to get forward they both saw lots of the ball early on.

The first chance of the game inevitibley came from a Bayern defensive area, Tymoschuk got himself in a muddle and was caught underneath a cross, Lahm couldn’t react, the ball fell to Paolo Guerrero and luckily for the Ukrainian his shot fizzed wide of the post.

Seeing this close call seemed to wake up Bayern’s midfield and for the first time they got on the front foot and a few minutes of pressure followed, Thomas Müller going close with a powerful shot, deflected over the bar but no corner was given.

Hamburg then gave themselves a little break from pressuring the ball high up the pitch allowing Bayern more time on the ball, Schweinsteiger and Kroos trying to pull the strings, Pranjić and Lahm finding some space to advance up the pitch, unfortunately Schweinsteiger was receiving the ball far too deep in the midfield to cause any damage in Hamburg’s defence, Armin Veh’s men looked very comfortable.

Mario Gómez cast a lonely shadow upfront lacking any support or service it was a frustrating night for last weeks hat-trick hero, without the ball everyone but Gómez worked to bet behind the ball, once in possession the midfield couldn’t close the gap from the striker and most moves petered out.

Bayern’s best chance of the first half came from a fast break after a tidy move Toni Kroos really should have put Hamit Altintop in on goal, the man with the best cheekbones in football was furious with the young German when the shot sailed over the bar.

Very few clear cut chances in the first half, Bayern’s tactics limited Hamburg’s space Piotr Trochowski touches could have been counted on one hand, the most excitement was when Franck Rost had to come off after a Schweinsteiger challenge, Czech Jaroslav Drobny took his place in net just before the Half Time whistle.

Louis van Gaal must have had a stern word for his team at the interval as they came out in the Second Half was a full tank of gas, closing the ball down all over the pitch and not giving Hamburg any space at all, however it is not good enough to only limit your opponents you need to show some attacking ambition.

Glimpses of Thomas Müller’s talents and the driving runs of Schweinsteiger at times breathed life into the Bayern attack but it was ineffective as a Wayne Rooney apology and Hamburg had enough to resist the attacks.

Substitutions were made and Armin Veh choose to freshen up the front line, Mladen Petric and Maxim Choupo-Moting replaced Guerrero and van Nistlerooy, it made an instant impact, the more mobile Moting was able to close down the Bayern defence faster, his runs made space for Jonathan Pitroipa to ghost through the centre of Bayern’s defence.

The movement of Petric, Moting and Pitroipa upset a tired fragile Bayern defence and with Trochowski becoming more influential the smart money would have been on a Hamburg goal. Schweinsteiger tried another of his trademark runs but lost the ball cheaply, Petric had dropped into that space, with time and space on the ball he released Pitroipa with a perfectly weighted pass, clear through on goal the Burkina Faso midfielder’s shot beat Butt but couldn’t beat the post, wheeling away to celebrate Pitroipa could only watch his shot crash off the woodwork.

In the end both teams struggled to create many chances, Bayern fans may have questioned why van Gaal didn’t try something else, the like for like change Gómez for Olic didn’t add anything to the game, bringing Olic on for Kroos for the last 15 minutes could have helped Bayern’s cause, van Gaal’s hands were pretty much tied by the lack of options available to him.

Armin Veh will see this as two points dropped, his team played well in patches, with the amount of possession Hamburg had they should have created many more chances, and that’s what will worry Veh the most.

 FINAL SCORE: Hamburg 0 Bayern Munich 0

Hamburg v Bayern Munich – Tactical Extra

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After Celtic’s tough defeat to Sporting Braga in the Champions League qualifying round, every Celtic fan was hoping for an easier route into the Europa League group stage. But it was not to be, as FC Utrecht’s name came out of the hat.

An unknown quantity to many who do not follow the Eredivisie, there is much to learn about a team that could knock Celtic out of European football, in what would be a disastrous start to Neil Lennon’s season.

Last season Utrecht finished the league in seventh position, qualifying for the subsequent play-off tournament to win the last Europa league place. In the first round they beat FC Groningen 5-1 on aggregate, 3-1 at home and then an impressive 2-0 victory away, with Ricky van Wolfswinkel scoring two goals in the two games.

In the games against Roda JC for the Europa League place, another great away victory was followed by a 4-1 victory at home. Yet Utrecht had only scored 39 games in the regular season but managed to score 11 in four play-off games, demonstrating they are a team not to be messed with in a two leg system.

During the regular season they were a very up and down team, with only two defeats at home conceding 12 goals, eight wins and seven draws. Their away form let them down at times, six wins, four draws and seven defeats, and with no away wins against any of the “big” teams. However they did beat Ajax and AZ Alkmaar at their home 25,000 Galgenwaard Stadium.

Ton du Chatinier is the man at the helm for his first big job, moving up from the post of assistant in 2008 having played 235 games for Utrecht from 1977 to 1987 as a defender. The man he replaced, Foeke Booy, moved upstairs and is now Technical Director. Ex-Rangers coach Jan Wouters is his assistant.

The last trophy Utrecht managed to win was the KNVB cup in 2004, they also won it in 2003, beating FC Twente 1-0 in the final in 2004, MLS veteran Dave van der Bergh with the only goal. In 2003 they beat Feyenoord 4-1 in the final, with now Liverpool and ex-Feyenoord forward Dirk Kuyt, listed as Kuijt back then, scoring the fourth goal.

ANALYSIS

To gain an understanding of how Utrecht play and what kind of threat they will bring, a look at their second leg victory in the Europa League against FC Luzern and the opening game of the Eredivisie season away to Feyenoord were two good games to watch.

Utrecht managed an impressive 3-1 victory in Luzern, showing what a dangerous attacking force they can be. Then against Feyenoord after starting well, they were unlucky to be on the losing side of a 3-1 defeat. Du Chatinier played the same XI in both games. Barring injury, it seemed a very stable selection and all the players looked comfortable with each other, something Celtic as of yet have not looked.

In both games the line-up remained the same starting with what looks like a basic 4-4-2 formation,  however once the game starts there is nothing basic about it, when Utrecht don’t have the ball the positioning looks more like 4-2-2-2 with Lensky and Silberbauer dropping deep to cover the back four, and Mertens and Asare playing very narrow, primarily to keep the midfield tight, make the opposition play wide.

Against Luzern the ball was played diagonally into their box where Schut and Wuytens had no trouble clearing the danger. Then, when they regained possession, it turned quickly more into a 4-1-3-2 and Silberbauer was happy to hold his position, allowing Lensky to push on through the middle and Asare and Mertens provide the width.

The first goal versus Luzern came from a great piece of football, Striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel chased back into the midfield and won the ball back. (1) Lensky and (2) Silberbauer were happy to sit and slow down the fast break, allowing (3) van Wolfswinkel to win the ball back. He then played  a simple ball to Mertens who had drifted into the space between midfield and defence, with no Luzern player tracking his run.

This allowed (4) Asare and (5) Mulenga to find the space, Mulenga playing right on the defensive line keeps both the centre back and full back occupied, in turn drawing the other centre back (6) towards the ball, allowing Asare to attack the space. Mertens then played an easy ball in front of Asare and he showed his ability with both feet to finish on his left foot.

A very simple goal but it showed a great understanding from Utrecht of where the space was on the pitch. Mertens occupied the area van Wolfswinkel would usually be, Mulenga drifted wide on the left and Asare got in behind.

Nine minutes later, Utrecht were 2-0 up again and it was a case of players being intelligent and doing the simple things well. It wasn’t the prettiest build up with goalkeeper Vorm launching the ball forward.

From the picture, you can see the midfield set up in the four with Asare tucking inside. However this goal is mostly down to Mulenga’s physical threat and van Wolfswinkel’s anticipation. Mulenga (1) challenges with both centre backs, he doesn’t win the ball, however it flicks off the head of a defender and (2) van Wolfswinkel is the first to react. With no defenders anywhere near him, he has the simple task of putting the ball past the Luzern keeper, which he does with a touch of class, a little dink, lovely football.

The goal that wrapped up the game doesn’t take much analysis; Silberbauer picked up the ball 45 yards from goal, charges past four Luzern defenders and lofts the ball over the goalkeeper. Yet another lovely piece of individual skill but very poor defending.

Luzern did manage to peg one goal back in the second half and it comes from an area that could be a weakness of the Utrecht side. The attack made it’s way to the left side of Utrecht’s defence, Nesu failed to close the ball down, the cross came in and the ball was flicked to the back post, a lovely header, but too little too late for the Swiss side.

Going forward Utrecht are a very talented side, however they do have weaknesses in defence. Holding a 1-0 lead and keeping out wave after wave of Feyenoord attack, they were finally broken down on the 52nd minute. Wijnaldum found fullback de Vrij flying down the right, his cross could only be turned into the net by Utrecht’s Schut and this seemed to open the floodgates.

The second goal was a disaster defensively. Smolov made a great run forward and draws both (1) centre backs towards him, (2) Silberbauer, Lensky and Asare make no effort to work back and defend, Cornelisse playing at right back is also drawn towards the ball, a goal was inevitable with Cabral (3) free on the left. As an option it was the trailing Luigi Bruins (4) that provided the finish as the ball broke to him on the edge of the box with no one near him, and he was able to pick his spot and fire the ball past Vorm.

Utrecht’s main weakness it seems is on their left side. As fantastic an attacker Dries Mertens seems to be, he is not interested in helping Nesu with his defensive duties. This leaves the Romanian very isolated and with two players working together at times he is left stranded, over the two games, three of the four goals they conceded came from poor defending on the left.

These same principles will also apply to Celtic’s left hand side. Utrecht’s full back Tim Cornelisse can be seen at times covering the centre backs pulling himself out of position, the diagram above shows Cornelisse being drawn towards the ball, and the Feyenoord left winger Cabral is in acres of space on the left.

This is another area Celtic could take advantage of. Against Sporting Braga at home, Samaras played on the left but as he is not a natural winger, very often he wandered inside taking away the option of width on the left. When he was given the ball, his first thought was not to deliver a cross but to come inside and try to create something.

Celtic could benefit from either playing a more natural left-footed player like Joe Ledley or the youthful energy of 19-year-old James Forrest against the 32-year-old full back. The discipline in maintaining width on each flank could be of paramount importance to how successful Celtic can be over the two legs.

Cha Du-Ri could also be a very important player for Celtic over the two legs, despite the defensive frailties he has shown. He has already shown a desire to get forward and his ability to get balls into the box and this could be Celtic’s best route to goal.

Celtic’s midfield will need to play very smart. When Cha makes his runs forward, Juarez, Brown or whomever Lennon picks need to be very wary of Mertens and make sure he is covered, as their first goal against Luzern showed they are very capable of hitting on the counter attack.

Against Inverness on Saturday as Celtic began to dominate the second half Cha Du-Ri’s attacking instincts were very apparent. In the move shown above, Fortune is happy to hold up the ball as Cha makes the overlapping run (1), The midfielder can’t keep up with the full back (2) Cha, who then uses the Inverness defender (3) as a shield to attack the byline.

The three defenders in the centre can only watch as Cha whips in the cross, unfortunately in this attack Maloney’s shot was saved and went behind for a corner. This is a great example of how given a two-on-one match-up, the full backs are very important.

It is not just in the wide areas that Celtic could take advantage. With Utrecht playing with only two natural central midfielders, Lennon’s 4-2-3-1 formation should give Celtic an extra player in the middle of the park. Not only will this be important in the Scottish club retaining possession, the extra player will have space to make forward runs either to link up with the lone front man, but also to put himself on the end of any crosses into the box.

Luigi Bruins was able to score Feyenoord’s second goal because Utrecht’s defence was pulled out of position and he found that pocket of space between defence and midfield, an area where Maloney, Juarez or Ledley could find very fruitful.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Dries Mertens is an exciting young player, only 23 years old after being released by Anderlecht as a youngster he has gone through he Dutch ranks winning player of the season in the Dutch 2nd Division for AGOVV, made his debut for Utrecht in 2009 and went on to score 6 goals in 36 games, a very talented attacking midfielder.

Plays mostly on the left, and as happens in modern football these days he is very right footed, loves to cut inside, a hard player to track and he loves to drift around the pitch finding space to pick up the ball and cause teams problem, there is a touch of the Mesut Oezil about him, good passer of the ball, great ball control, has the ability to rip a defence apart all on his own.

Another exciting young talent for Utrecht is Ricky van Wolfswinkel, in 17 games for Utrecht last year he scored 8 goals and has been rewarded with a call up to the Dutch friendly against the Ukraine later this month, scored 8 goals in his season at Vitesse and looks to be a player to look for in the present not just the future.

He has already scored 3 goals in 2 games in the league and a goal against Luzern in the Europa League he is a player Celtic will need to watch closely, runs the channels well to create space for Mertens and Lensky, also drops deep to collect the ball, for such a young player he is a calm finisher, doesn’t lack confidence in anyway, a very talented striker.

TEAM INFO

A few players in their team that I recognise Michel Vorm is their goalkeeper the 26 year old has 4 Dutch caps, his first competitive game coming at Hampden Park against Scotland in a World Cup qualifier, he was part of van Marwijk’s World Cup squad although never saw any minutes.

Danish midfielder Michael Silberbauer is another player Celtic fans might remember he play for FC Copenhagen for 4 years; he played in the 3-1 victory of Celtic in 2006 and the earlier 1-0 defeat at Celtic Park.

Jacob Lensky is a name a few Celtic fans may remember, I was at Celtic Park when he was brought out at half-time as the next youth prospect the 16 year old would spend 3 years in the academy never playing for the first team, and eventually left to sign his first professional contract with Feyenoord, only ever playing 1 game in 2007, he then quit football in 2008, 4 months later he was training again with 2011 MLS expansion team the Vancouver Whitecaps, he declined a trial with the Seattle Sounders, then in 2009 he signed a one year deal that was then extended with FC Utrecht, he has gone on to play 29 games, he looks to have grown up from his year in Utrecht, reminds me a little of Paul Scholes, not just the colour of his hair, he is able to sit deep and defend however picks his runs well, breaking into the box and causing a threat, also like Scholes he is not afraid to throw in a tackle.

Obviously to retire at 19 and come back you have to question his mentality, when picked for Canada he was asked about the link with the Czech Republic to which he responded.

“Yeah, I love Canada, but in truth soccer is soccer to me. It’s all pretty much the same, so if the Czech team came and asked me – maybe, sure. But they didn’t, so I’m going to the call up just focussing on it and playing my game. Some people don’t like it and that’s ok.”

Not exactly showing full commitment to a countries cause, no surprise he changed his mind, a talented player but a troubled mind.

Although not full of top names, they are a young team with lots of potential, the pundits will make Celtic favourites to win, however both ties will have to be treated with caution if the Glasgow giants want to play European football past August this season.

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