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The Bundesliga outfit is playing really well at present, while the Bhoys are still adapting to life under Ange Postecoglou.
Ange Postecoglou was a left-field appointment as Celtic manager in the summer. The Australian is only the club’s second non-British or Irish manager in the 21st century, after Ronny Deila of Norway. The 56-year-old has never worked in Europe before and spent the last three years at Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan. Yet just because many Scottish soccer followers were unfamiliar with Postecoglou’s work, that does not mean he was a bad choice to succeed Neil Lennon.
Indeed, Celtic needed a shake-up, and choosing a name of the usual cast list would not have provided that. In the short term, though, there could be some pain. Postecoglou has not had the smoothest of starts at Parkhead. In his defense, he inherited a team that finished 25 points behind Rangers last season. Celtic have also had bad luck with injuries so far in 2021/22, and the underlying performances in the Premiership have largely been positive – based on expected goals, the Bhoys should have picked up a lot more points than they have.
Postecoglou is an experienced manager, though, and he knows full well that this is a results business. Celtic have been disappointing in that regard thus far. They have won three and lost three of their first seven Premiership games, and sit below not only Rangers but also Hibernian, Hearts, Motherwell, and Dundee United. Postecoglou’s side was also on the wrong end of a 4-3 defeat by Real Betis on matchday one of the Europa League. That result leaves them under pressure heading into Thursday’s contest.
Bayer Leverkusen also appointed a new manager in the close-season following Peter Bosz’s exit in March. The Dutchman was dismissed after watching his team tumble out of contention for a top-four finish in the Bundesliga, and the caretaker boss Hannes Wolf was tasked with making sure Leverkusen did not fall out of the Europa League qualification spots. He succeeded in that objective before making way for Gerardo Seoane, the ex-Young Boys coach.
Seoane has required little time to adapt to the Bundesliga. Only Bayern Munich are above Leverkusen in the Bundesliga table after six rounds of fixtures. His team have scored 16 goals in those games, with Patrik Schick and Moussa Diaby both in fine form up front. The 18-year-old Florian Wirtz has been even more impressive, scoring four goals and providing four assists in just five Bundesliga appearances – two of which came as a substitute. There is no doubt that the German teenager has a bright future ahead of him.
It was Wirtz who notched the winner when Leverkusen beat Ferencvaros 2-1 in their opening European encounter of the campaign. That was an important triumph for the German side, who would have hoped for a kinder draw in the group phase. Celtic, Real Betis, and Ferencvaros are all tough opponents, but victory on Thursday would put Leverkusen in an excellent position as we approach the midway point of the pre-Christmas stage of the competition.
Leverkusen failed to advance beyond the Round of 32 in the Europa League of 2020/21, losing 6-3 to a Young Boys side managed by their current boss. Seoane will be eyeing another run to the quarter-finals this season – and perhaps beyond, with Leverkusen currently, the fourth-favorites to win the trophy.
As their goal return so far this season suggests, Leverkusen are an excellent attacking side. Their 4-2-3-1 formation brings out the best in the likes of Wirtz, Diaby, Schick and Karim Bellarabi, a front four whose link-up in the opening weeks of the season bodes well for what is to come. Leverkusen can still improve, particularly defensively, but Seoane has made a fantastic start.
Celtic’s results mean the same description cannot be applied to Postecoglou, even though the Australian has shown signs of promise. He is an innovative coach who will probably succeed in the long-term at Celtic Park, but teething problems remain as Postecoglou tries to restore the club to the pinnacle of the Scottish game. With Rangers the favorites to win the Premiership, a deep run in the Europa League would serve him well.
Thursday’s game will be difficult, however, particularly as the likes of Karamoko Dembele, James Forrest, Kyogo Furuhashi, and Christopher Jullien remain sidelined. Leverkusen have injury worries of their own, but their performances of late make it a great deal easier to envisage them picking up a positive result regardless.
A raucous atmosphere at Celtic Park should works in the home team’s favor, but that alone will not be enough for the Bhoys to beat Leverkusen. Follow the form book and back the German side to come out on top.
|Celtic vs Bayer Leverkusen Information|
|Teams||Celtic vs Bayer Leverkusen|
|Location||Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland|
|Time||Thursday, 30 September 2021, 15.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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