February 14th brings European football back to paradise for the first time in 2019. Securing continental football guarantees tough opposition whether in the Champions or Europa league. Last year we saw the Bhoys fall out at the last 32 to Zenit St Petersburg. This year Celtic drew Spanish club, Valencia in the first knockout round.
Currently sat 8th in La Liga, the Spanish side offer another tough test. ‘Los Ches’, despite spending £115million in the last Summer window are experiencing a drop off from last season where they finished 4th.
On initial viewing, Valencia are coming off a solid run of games, two wins, three draws and a loss in their last six games. One of those draws coming away at the Camp Nou, a result not to be sniffed at.
However, draws have been constant in the 2018/19 season, drawing 12 times in their 22 games so far, they are a team seemingly lacking a killer instinct.
This is reflected by their Goalscoring output, with a Goal difference of just +4 in the league. Their top scorer, Santi Mina has netted only 8 times in 23 games, less than Edouard, Sinclair, Forrest and Christie.
Although the strength across the two leagues cannot be compared, they are a side that lack an obvious goalscorer and this is a definite positive for Celtic. With the solid Boyata and an in-form Simunovic set to begin on Thursday night, along side new defensive signing Jeremy Toljan, the hoops will undoubtedly fancy their chances of preventing much goalmouth action.
Valencia Head Coach, Marcelino has been in charge of Valencia since 2017 and finds his side in the Europa league having drawn tough opposition in the Champions league.
The six time La Liga winners drew Italian Giants Juventus and Big-Spending Man United in the Group stage. They bowed out with eight points earning a surprising 2-1 win at Old Trafford.
Valencia are a side with European pedigree, undoubtedly, but they are by no means unbeatable.
Their league form shows how they have struggled against weaker sides, have no obvious Home hot-streak, (drawing 7 in 11 at La Mestalla) and have at no point this season won more than two games in a row.
It should also not be forgotten that Celtic earned their knockout place, beating RB Leipzig and knocking out the German side. That home display against ‘Die Roten Bullen’ was immense and that alongside the lightening start to 2019, give inspiration to the young Celtic side.
If the Hoops play to their potential they are more than a match for Valencia. A good display is needed but the Celtic faithful haven’t seen anything but good displays since late December.
Our loyal support must rally together and back the Bhoys to take a good result to Spain in a weeks time.