Monday 23 April 2018

Have Celtic unearthed the the five-point plan to stop Pep Guardiola's Manchester City side?

Manchester City players line up before kick off during the UEFA Champions League, Group C match at Celtic Park
Manchester City players line up before kick off during the UEFA Champions League, Group C match at Celtic Park

Makr Ogden

Manchester City failed to match Tottenham Hotspur’s all-time record with eleven successive victories at the start of the season having been held to a 3-3 draw by Celtic in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s team now prepare to travel to White Hart Lane to face Spurs on Sunday aiming to prove that the result in Scotland was no more than a minor blip.

Pep Guardiola’s team now prepare to travel to White Hart Lane to face Spurs on Sunday aiming to prove that the result in Scotland was no more than a minor blip.


From the first whistle to the final kick on Wednesday evening, Celtic chased down every ball and denied their City opponents the time and space to dictate the tempo of the game.

It was a shock to the system for Guardiola’s players, who have quickly become accustomed to their possession-based game overcoming opponents in the Premier League.

Rodgers sent his players out with the instruction to suffocate the space around the City players and it was a lesson learned from Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat against their neighbours, when a failure to press high up the pitch and close down City’s defenders contribute to the opening goal at Old Trafford.

With time and space, City have shown their ability to be ruthless, but Celtic were almost super-human in their efforts to pressurise Guardiola’s team.

Scott Brown and Mousse Dembele were hugely impressive in this, but every one of Rodgers’ players stepped up to the plate.


Guardiola chose to leave John Stones on the bench at Celtic, preferring to start with Nicolas Otamendi and Aleksandar Kolarov at the heart of defence, but both players were tormented by the incessant running and power of Mousse Dembele.

Kolarov’s mistake directly contributed to Celtic’s third goal and calmness was only restored once Stones was introduced late in the second-half, allowing Kolarov to revert to his more familiar role at left-back.

City have not faced a striker with the work-rate and tenacity of Dembele in the Premier League this season, but the French youngster’s success in causing havoc for the City back-four and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo will have been noted by Premier League coaches.

Much of City’s play begins at the back and too many domestic opponents have allowed them to do this.

Celtic pressed high, though, and Dembele was the key to this, with Scott Sinclair also contributing on the flanks.


Despite their previously flawless start to the season, with ten wins from ten before the draw at Celtic, City’s full-backs remain an area of weakness.

Pablo Zabaleta has been a great servant, but is now showing his age, while Gael Clichy continues to be prone to positional frailties against better quality opponents.

Celtic enjoyed great success down the flanks with Scott Sinclair, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney, their impressive young left-back, repeatedly targeting Zabaleta and Clichy.

With the centre-halves pre-occupied by the powerful Dembele, Zabaleta and Clichy were also exposed and pulled wide by Celtic and gaps appeared at the back.

Whether Premier League teams can match Celtic for work-rate remains to be seen, but energetic, attack-minded wide players have now shown that they can cause serious problems for City’s defenders.


No player has been more impressive for City this season that Fernandinho, with the Brazilian midfielder emerging from Yaya Toure’s shadow to showcase the talents he has had to stifle while partnering the Ivorian during his three previous seasons at the club.

Fernandinho makes City tick, he sets the tempo of their game, but against Celtic he was given absolutely no time to conduct the play in front of him.

Scott Brown and Tom Rogic pulled Fernandinho out of position, forced him to make mistakes in possession and pretty much buzzed around him to the point of distraction.

It was like watching two hyenas torment a lion and the hyenas won.


Make no mistake, the incredible atmosphere inside Celtic Park inspired Rodgers’ players and drove them on for ninety minutes on Wednesday night.

They were a raucous twelfth man, but while they made Celtic’s players grow taller, they also unnerved Guardiola’s team.

The Etihad Stadium is repeatedly cited as an arena lacking in noise and passion, particularly on a European night, but City’s home ground is not alone in providing a sterile atmosphere in the Premier League.

Guardiola’s players have not encountered such hostility and backing for the home team on their travels this season, but Celtic’s supporters showed what a difference it can make when the volume is pumped up in the stands.

If more Premier League stadiums can become bear-pits like Celtic Park, it will make it much more difficult for visiting teams – not just City – to dominate away from home.

Independent News Service

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