Blogs & Opinion


Sam's the man

Samaras' graft and guile could aid Celtic against Spartak, says Andy

Features - Andy Walker Posted 1st October 2012 view comments

Celtic go into Tuesday's Champions League away tie against Spartak Moscow as huge underdogs but as the astonishing performance of Europe's golfers in an unforgettable Ryder Cup success has proved, anything is possible in sport.

As the lowest ranked side in a group containing Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow, the odds are stacked against Neil Lennon's men being good enough to qualify for the knockout phase of Europe's premier club competition and a positive result in Moscow is essential if Celtic are to have any hope of progressing to the last 16.

Samaras: the Greek forward has not always been loved by Hoops fans

Samaras: the Greek forward has not always been loved by Hoops fans

It doesn't take a genius to work out that as huge favourites to win the competition outright, never mind the group, Barcelona look too strong to finish anywhere other than top of Group G. Consequently, Celtic's results against Benfica and Spartak will determine their fate.

Despite an extraordinary home support against Benfica on Matchday 1, Celtic dropped two points in Glasgow and will have to come up with some sort of game-plan to pick up something in the Russian capital.

Samaras keeps coming back for more and is so aware of his defensive duties as well as being able to create and score.

Andy Walker
Quotes of the week

LIVE ON SKY SPORTS
UEFA Champions League

Spartak Moscow v Celtic
5pm, Tue, Sky Sports 2 HD
Watch on the move with Sky Go
How to remote record

Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley were on the bench in the 2-0 SPL victory over Motherwell at the weekend but I reckon their international experience will see both playing from the start in this one.

In particular, you have to admire Samaras and his strength of character. For a long time he was derided by a large section of the Celtic support and even his manager stated that he was the kind of player who could get you the sack!

But Samaras keeps coming back for more and is so aware of his defensive duties as well as being able to create and score.

His cross right on the corner flag with his left foot enabled Kris Commons to volley home a vital first away to Helsingborgs in the qualifiers and Samaras himself scored the second.

Recognition

The Champions League stage is certainly where a lot of Celtic players have the opportunity to show how good they are. Joe Hart is undeniably England's first-choice keeper but a place for a capable understudy is up for grabs.

Fraser Forster has improved immensely over the last 18 months and big performances from him in the group stages might just end with a call-up to the England squad.

At the other end of the pitch, Neil Lennon was talking up the chances of Gary Hooper catching Roy Hodgson's eye. Granted, the level of competition is not as high in Scotland as it is in the Barclays Premier League, but goals on the European stage against some of the best defenders on the continent brings huge recognition.

It has to be said, though, that three points in Moscow will be really tough. Spartak showed a fair bit of ambition in their first group tie in the Nou Camp against Barcelona by scoring two goals and will be looking to make home advantage count.

Like Neil Lennon's men, their recent form is impressive. Since that defeat in Barcelona, Spartak have won three league games in a row and are just four points off the top of their domestic table.

In stark contrast to their home form against the best Europe has to offer, the SPL champions' recent history in this competition tells you that they continually struggle away from home to get the kind of victories that can make all the difference.

The result in Moscow will go a long way to determine whether Celtic have a chance of finishing second in the group or, perhaps more realistically, are eyeing third spot and a place in the Europa League.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Jamie Redknapp

Redknapp praises Di Maria DNA

Jamie Redknapp says Angel di Maria can follow in the footsteps of Manchester United greats after his QPR masterclass...

Niall Quinn

Cost effective

Diego Costa has made life easier for Chelsea with his goalscoring, Niall Quinn says...

Dwight Yorke

Yorke challenges Agbonlahor

Dwight Yorke says Gabriel Agbonlahor must hit double figures after scoring the winner at Liverpool....

Latest News RSS feeds

New-look United rout QPR

New-look Manchester United rediscovered their spark as they crushed hapless Queens Park Rangers 4-0 at Old Trafford.

Ron return possible

The Supplement say Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United is 'feasible'.

Live transfer updates

Vincent Kompany hopes Yaya Toure will sign a new Man City deal, while Philippe Coutinho is ready to discuss a new Liverpool contract.

Van Gaal welcomes 'new start'

Louis van Gaal was pleased to see Manchester United make 'a new start' with a 4-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers.

Redknapp: Not too much wrong

Harry Redknapp refused to get too downbeat after seeing Queens Park Rangers hammered 4-0 at Manchester United.

Features

Angel di Maria shows why he can be the difference maker for Manchester United in emphatic 4-0 win over QPR

Angel di Maria shows why he can be the difference maker for Manchester United in emphatic 4-0 win over QPR

“Every time he gets on the ball it comes alive. The game just looks quicker when he’s on it.” Radamel Falcao might have been the focus of attention in the build-up but Gary Neville’s assessment of the game itself was spot on. It was Angel di Maria who stole the show against Queens Park Rangers.

Tom Cleverley kicks off his stay at Aston Villa with a 1-0 win at Liverpool and must now kickstart his career too

Tom Cleverley kicks off his stay at Aston Villa with a 1-0 win at Liverpool and must now kickstart his career too

“Cleverley had no physique, was wiry as hell, but he was as brave as a lion, had good feet and could score a goal.”

Danny Welbeck's Arsenal debut against Manchester City showcased his potential as well as his current limitations

Danny Welbeck's Arsenal debut against Manchester City showcased his potential as well as his current limitations

Arsenal fans. Meet Danny Welbeck. The England international had raised expectations after his brace against Switzerland earlier in the week and proceeded to produce a Gunners debut against Manchester City that offered plenty of encouragement without delivering the killing stroke.