Celtic’s hopes of taking anything from their final European game of the season have now become even slimmer with the Hoops boss, Ange Postecoglou, revealing that his Parkhead troops will be a man down on Wednesday evening.
Tests get no sterner than the one they’ll face this evening too, with Postecoglou’s side travelling to the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid.
Perennial winners of the competition, it’s highly likely they’ll win the encounter, but there is still pride at stake and a chance to impress inside one of the greatest footballing theatres on the planet for Celtic.
Unfortunately, defender Cameron Carter-Vickers will not be afforded such a luxury, with the American defender ruled out of the clash after failing to come through Livingston’s plastic pitch unscathed.
He has been left at home in what can only be described as a big blow to Celtic. There is some good news, however, with Carl Starfelt among the travelling party.
The Swede hasn’t been seen since early September due to a knee injury which has subsequently kept him out of 13 matches.
Although the Scottish giants sit at the top of the Premiership table, there is a sense that they have missed his influence in the middle of the backline.
Initially enduring a slow start to life at Celtic when he arrived, he quickly became a crucial cog for his Australian coach, playing 34 times in the league throughout 2021/22.
His influence has obviously waned this term due to injury, but now is the perfect time to unleash him again. After all, Moritz Jenz and Stephen Welsh have struggled with their own fitness of late and it’s a scary thought thinking about how they might fare against a player of Karim Benzema’s class.
Starfelt, on the other hand, has been capped five times by Sweden, and is more accustomed to facing some of the very best attacking players on the continent.
Last term, no centre-back at the club won more than his 1.2 tackles or 4.4 aerials per game domestically, indicating he may well be the best defender Celtic have. Dominant whether the ball is in the air or on the deck, he has become a pillar of consistency and his re-emergence in the first-team picture will be huge for the team.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that has been paid since his arrival in Glasgow is from Paul John Dykes, who said of the 27-year-old last season: “He’s got a bit of Tony Mowbray to him. He reminds me of Tony Mowbray with the way he moves about the park.”
Should he register numbers like the statistics above, then there is every reason Celtic could keep Madrid quieter than was previously anticipated.
That said, not having his partner in crime next to him in Carter-Vickers, will be a seismic loss for the Hoops.