Previewing Celtic Versus Inter Milan


So this Thursday night Celtic will take on old European foes F.C. Internazionale Milano at Celtic Park in the Europa League, with a place in the competitions last sixteen up for grabs.

Both teams have history… Celtic beat Inter back in 1967 to claim the European Cup, which was the Glasgow clubs most famous achievement. While Inter then knocked the Hoops out of the same competition in the semi-final stage in 1972.

How will the tie go?

Well that’s a very good question.

On paper the Italians seem to have the stronger squad and have a slightly better pedigree to their name, but football matches are never won, or even played, on paper!

In the form guides, Celtic hold the advantage as the Scottish Champions have won all eight of their fixtures in 2015 and have only conceded one goal. Whereas ‘I Nerazzurri’ have won four, drawn twice and lost three of the nine games they’ve played since the turn of the year. But as we know form can mean very little in European ties.

Now this season has been mediocre for Internazionale. Their inconsistency has them firmly placed in tenth place in the Serie A table. If Roberto Mancini’s re-appointment back November was meant to bring instant success and a big turn in fortunes, then it hasn’t quite happened yet.

Looking at Inter’s squad and there is room for optimism as they have quite a few players that should be preforming consistently better.

Defensively Inter used to be a solid unit, when Mancini was previously in charge. The ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho would then inherit that side, make it stronger and saw them conquer Europe in 2010. But since then the Italian giants have become fragile.

Much of this season, under former boss Walter Mazzarri, the team went with three at the back. But since Mancini arrived back he has seen an improvement moving to a back four.

Injury problems haven’t helped the defensive department. Experienced centre-half Nemanja Vidic will likely miss out on the Glasgow clash due to sciatica. Vice-captain Yuto Nagatomo will be out with a hamstring injury, while Marco Andreolli and Danilo D’Ambrosio have been missing too.

The danger for Celtic will come from Inter’s creative forces.

Argentine international striker Mauro Icardi might seem like a character straight out of a soap opera due to his off the field antics (including marrying an ex teammates wife and calling Inter fans ‘pieces of shit’) but the boy can find the net. His scoring prowess has caught the attention of Manchester United and Liverpool. So far the twenty-one year old has bagged himself eighteen goals in twenty-nine appearances this term. He often sits on defenders shoulders waiting for his chance to catch them off guard, react quicker and score.

Midfield man Fredy Guarin seems to be the player that makes Inter Milan tick. The technically gifted Colombian can play on the right or in central midfield. He can also go deeper in search of the ball to act as a deep laying playmaker. His passing ability and shot accuracy can be devastating as his five goals and five assists suggest. He comes into this fixture with Celtic in red hot form with an inspiring man of the match performance against Atalanta on Sunday. His ability and form have seen the maestro linked with moves to Real Madrid and Chelsea recently.

In goal, Samir Handanovic is a player that Celtic fans will know after his impressive performance against the ‘tic’ in 2011 for Udinese. The Slovenian has great stature and the shot-stopper is one of the best in Serie A at the moment. Samir also has an extremely impressive penalty save record!

Former Cardiff City man Gary Medel is the warrior in the middle of the park that can run for miles and mop up behind the likes of Guarin, Hernanes and Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri. The tough tackling Chilean can also build up attacks. Although Mr Pitbull still has a tendency to get himself booked.

So as you can see, when all systems are go then Celtic may struggle to contend with Inter. Some may have felt that the Italians could see the Europa League as a sub-standard competition, well they are Italians after all. But Roberto Mancini has come out and said that he sees this trophy as a priority and also lets not forget the winners of the Europa League this campaign will qualify for next seasons Champions League. That could be Inter’s only realistic route at getting into next years Champions League.


But it’s not all doom and gloom for Celtic. Not just because Inter are very inconsistent this term but also because the Scottish champions have their own positives.

After a slow, somewhat sluggish start new coach Ronny Deila seems to have the Hoops playing extremely well at the moment.

New-boys Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven have hit the ground running and settled in well at Parkhead.

Captain Scott Brown has been instrumental in all that is good with the club at the moment. He’s got a swagger to his game and isn’t scared of the big ties. His ability to get under opposing players skin could help Celtic’s cause as he goes about dismantling Inter, when the Italians are in possession.

Celtic might miss talismanic Kris Commons but Norwegian Stefan Johansen has shown that he can step up and become a key creative talent when Commons is missing.

Scotland goalie Craig Gordon has returned from long-term injury and cemented himself as Celtic’s number one. Gordon has turned back time with his shot stopping best. The keeper had eight cleansheets in a row until the weekend encounter against St Johnstone and he made a vital double save against the Saints to give Celtic the victory.

Upfront both Leigh Griffiths and John Guidetti have had purple patches, with the Scottish striker being in-form at the moment. But while both have enjoyed goals in domestic competition this term, they need to prove now that they have enough quality to put teams like Inter Milan to the sword.

Celtic also have fan power on their side. The Scottish giants have a glorious history of peaking at home in Europe with sides like Barcelona, Man United and Juventus faltering under the lights at Celtic Park in European nights!

The tactics board could be where it’s all won and lost over these two legs.

Roberto Mancini will probably continue with the 4-3-1-2 formation that has seen his side beat Atalanta and Palermo convincingly. While Deila will probably opt for 4-2-3-1 that can be adapted to 4-4-1-1 or even a 4-5-1 when they are not in possession and are facing an onslaught.

I don’t envisage seeing lots of goals in this tie, with the odd goal or two being enough to see the victors through. My head says that Internazionale should have enough to knock Celtic out but I know through history that if any team are capable of upsetting the odds then that team is Celtic and Inter will know that too!

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