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S.C. Braga vs. Celtic Preview

July 28, 2010

Due to the EBC’s (sorry, BBC’s) usual disregard for its Scottish licence fee payers,  it will be particularly difficult to see any of this game. No live coverage and as far as I’m aware, not even any highlights.

Apparently, the cost of the game was beyond the BBC’s football coverage budget. Yes, that same budget which paid for the recent jolly in South Africa for a seemingly endless amount of TV presenters and ‘pundits’ – so they could offer such pearls of wisdom as “the 4-4-2 is dead” and “the formation is now the most important thing in football”. The same budget which afforded a brand new studio to be built  in Cape Town (where less of the football action even occurred) – ITV made do with an already existing one in Johannesburg – and needless segments such as the two weird brothers on a tour bus and John Motson being wheeled out to recall a useless fact that nobody cares about.

Of course, one game is completely out of reach then – a game which has been successfully sold by Braga to Portuguese TV.

One finds it hard to believe that for coverage rights Braga are asking for anything particularly extortionate.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/homepage/

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On to the game itself

Lennon has proved to be quite difficult to second guess so far this pre-season. He has yet to pick what appears to be the strongest lineup, choosing instead to mix fringe and first team players in each of the friendlies so far. The Sporting game appeared to be the perfect chance to try out a possible first XI, but again it was more of an experimentation and fitness exercise. The Lincoln game meanwhile, was basically a reserve team.

The new signings and a couple of injuries will also make it difficult to predict how the team will shape up. Of all the new players, Ledley and Mulgrew seem the only certainties but will the likes of Cha Du-Ri, Juarez, Hooper or Murphy be thrown in from the start? Will the return from injury also mean there’s a place for McGeady, despite the continued transfer speculation (and good form of Forrest)? The same can be said about Samaras. There are also injury worries for O’Dea (a great loss?) and the marginally better Loovens.

Then there is the formation. We tried 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 variants in the pre-season friendlies so far, so again it will be difficult to predict which of these Lennon will go with. The fact that one striker lineups were tried against Man Utd and initially against Sporting do however suggest that this could be likely for tonight’s game.

Finally, with more comings and goings expected before the transfer window closes, how we lineup tonight probably won’t give much of an indication of Lennon’s vision for the season.

Predicted starters

Zaluska

Hooiveld, Mulgrew

Brown, Ledley, Maloney

Fortune

The rest are anybody’s guess…

Tactics

Most of  what to expect was outlined in the Sporting preview (e.g. the 4-4-1-1 defensive shape, moves involving the right back, the 1-4-1 attacking shape). We will probably defend deep and narrow with most attacks coming in the form of counters involving the two wide men. Look for the width of the back four and midfield, it is likely to stay within the width of the penalty area (when defending) and also hold a defensive line not many yards ahead of it.

Braga

Braga’s 17 new arrivals makes them even harder to predict than us. However, going on what was outlined in the Braga preview (inlcuding some help from visitors’ comments) and their recent friendlies, they are likely to play 4-4-2.

Players to watch out for (or beware of!) are Lucas (right-back), Alan (one of the wings, probably the right), Meyong and Lima (the strikers) and the solid central defensive partnership of Moises and Rodrigues (which went nearly 8 European games without conceding two seasons ago).

They may have had a poor pre-season (losing to Athletic Bilbao and 2nd division Varzim) and have lost a number of key players from last season but make no mistake, they will provide stiff opposition – definitely moreso than Artmedia or Dinamo Moscow did.

Conclusion

If we keep it tight and stay in the tie then – at this early stage in Lennon’s Celtic rebuilding process – that will be a good result. However, away goals can be crucial so getting one whilst retaining a chance of going through would be excellent.

Whatever happens it should be a great game and a welcome return to competitive football



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