18:45 GMT, 18th October 2017, Allianz Arena, Munich. BT Sport.
This week’s Champions League matchday sees Scottish giants Celtic go to the lions’ den that is the Allianz Arena as they take on one of Europe’s major powerhouses, Bayern Munich.
The Green and White of Glasgow have continued where they have left off in terms of the domestic campaign, sitting top of the Scottish Premier League joint on points with Aberdeen, the team who look the most likely to challenge the Hoops for the SPL Crown.
Meanwhile, the Bavarian side have an indifferent start to the season with manager Carlo Ancelotti losing his job after 3-0 defeat to Paris-Saint Germain on the last Champions League matchday. With club legend Jupp Heynckes taking over until the end of the season, Bayern got off to a winning start in the Bundesliga last weekend with a 5-0 win over league strugglers Freiburg.
These two sides have met before in this competition in the 03/04 group stages with another Bayern legend Roy Makaay netting twice to give them a 2-1 victory at the old Olympiastadion before an 0-0 draw in the away leg at Parkhead in Glasgow.
Last Time Out
Celtic 1-0 Dundee (SPL Premiership)
Brendan Rodgers’ side made it their third win in a row on Saturday as they dispatched Neil McCann’s Dundee 1-0 at Celtic Park in a game in which Rodgers rotated his squad with an eye to their upcoming Champions League fixture.
The Hoops did suffer a scare in the game as veteran keeper Dorus de Vries was called into action, pulling off a fantastic hat-trick of saves to keep his team in front in what was the former Swansea keeper’s first start in a year.
After the game, Rodgers voiced his concerns about the way his team played, admitting he wasn’t happy with how they moved the ball. This had much to do with the way Dundee’s Glen Kamara upset Celtic’s rhythm for the majority of the game. Given his rotational policy, the Northern Irishman should perhaps have expected this to be the case.
This notwithstanding, Celtic extended their unbeaten run to 59 game, one step closer to reaching the record of 62 games unbeaten which was set in April 1917 by the Celts.
Bayern Munich vs SC Freiburg (German Bundesliga)
Jupp Heynckes fourth stint as manager of the reigning Bundesliga champions got off to the best start possible as they demolished SC Freiburg at the Allianz Arena on Saturday Afternoon.
Bayern didn’t take long to get the ball rolling, although the first goal came courtesy of an own goal by Julian Schuster in the opening ten minutes. From that point onwards, the Bavarians cruised to victory with goals from Kingsley Coman, Thiago Alcântara, Robert Lewandowski and Joshua Kimmich making it a routine victory for the German giants.
The win left Bayern two points behind title rivals Borussia Dortmund, who suffered their first loss in the league this season against RB Leipzig. Judging by this performance, it looks like Munich are back on track in their battle to retain the Bundesliga title.
With Scott Brown and Jozo Simunovic out, and Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic doubts going into the game, this will be somewhat of a makeshift Celtic line-up. Olivier Ntcham and Callum McGregor are likely to deputise in the midfield area while Patrick Roberts will move into the number 10 spot to cover Rogic, being replaced himself by James Forrest.
Expect to see Rodgers set up with two banks of four when they are defending in an attempt to prevent Bayern from getting between the lines of the midfield.in an attempt to prevent Bayern from getting between the lines of the midfield.
At the other end of the field, Celtic will want to use the pace of Scott Sinclair and James Forrest to hit Bayern on the break. Hitman Leigh Griffiths will have to be at his most ruthless as chances will be very limited in this game for the Hoops.
Bayern Munich Line-Up
Jupp Heynckes is without a few key players of his own. Manuel Neuer continues to recover from a long-term foot injury while Franck Ribéry is out long-term with a ligament tear in his knee. Juan Bernat and Javi Martinez are training after picking up knocks but it is not certain if either will make the squad on Wednesday. In addition, Chilean Arturo Vidal is unlikely to start as he’s just back from International duty with Chile.
Despite this, Bayern have an impressive depth of squad. The home side will have the majority of the ball and, with their stellar forward line, will be hoping to carve out multiple chances for Robert Lewandowski, who has 29 goals so far for club and country this year.
Key Battle: Robert Lewandowski vs Craig Gordon
The Scottish number one will have to be on top form if Celtic are to come away from Munich with any points. Polish striker Robert Lewandowski is on red-hot form and will look to extend his goal tally against the Green and White side of Glasgow come Wednesday.
Gordon sat out the game against Dundee on Saturday so as to protect him for the game against Bayern on Wednesday. However, there have been questions about whether he possesses the ability to play at the highest level. If he can put in a good performance on Wednesday night, he will silence critics and put that argument to bed.
Scott Brown is a big loss
The Celtic captain is the heart of Rodgers’ Celtic side and the game against Bayern Munich will be even more difficult if Scott Brown is not passed fit to play come Wednesday night. In the game, Celtic will look to disrupt the rhythm of Bayern’s passing play and, were he fit, Brown would most likely be given the job.
If he passes a fitness test, Brown will also be faced with the task of keeping Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcântara quiet. Thiago is the player who makes the Bavarians tick in the middle of the park, Celtic will have to disrupt and stop Alcântara at all costs if they want to get anything out of this game. That job will be made more difficult if the Celtic skipper is not present on the pitch.
Jupp Heynckes’ first European game since treble victory in 2013
The Bayern legend will be looking forward to this game as his first appearance in the Champions League since he guided Bayern to their famous treble in 2013. In that final, Heynckes saw his side beat domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1 with a late goal from Dutch winger Arjen Robben sealing the victory.
With Heynckes returning to the helm, this is something of a new beginning for the players at the Allianz Arena who were reportedly unhappy with the way Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti conducted his training methods, upsetting senior figures in the dressing room.
Heynckes has been brought in to steady the ship at Bayern Munich but he will have Champions League success at the back of his mind. It may seem unlikely at this point but Heynckes is loved by both the players and fans at the club and it would not be too much of a surprise if he ended up with more than one trophy at the end of the season.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3-1 Celtic
This is a big game for both sides who are level on points in the group with Celtic second due to their superior goal difference. The German Champions will be expecting the away side to try get on the front foot in the early parts of the game in a bid to surprise them. However, after taking a measured approach in the opening exchanges, expect Bayern to take control and dominate proceedings with Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcântara all threats going forwards.
Celtic’s European away record in Europe is poor, only ever winning twice away from home in the competition with one of these coming last month with a 3-0 win against Belgian champions Anderlecht. It will be a difficult task, then, for Rodgers’ side to come away with anything from the Allianz Arena. If they pull it off, though, they would be in a good position to advance to the Champions League knock-out stages for the first time in five years.
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