While Everton did not finish the first part of this disjointed season very well - with three consecutive losses to the likes of Leicester City and Bournemouth to close out November - they do now have time to further develop their talents and chemistry, while resting up some injuries too. Frank and company are heading down to Sydney, Australia, to take part in the Sydney Super Cup clash against reigning Scottish champions Celtic.
Celtic are no joke, and their comfortable lead in the Premiership at this juncture is evidence of this; many of their players will be looking to showcase their talents against Premier League opposition during this World Cup-break friendly clash.
RBM: First off, with the first half of this season over already, and Celtic on top of the Premiership but out of Europe entirely, what is the feeling around the supporters and club right now?
There is undoubtedly a positive mood within the Celtic faithful and the club itself as we speak. The Hoops lead the Scottish Premiership by a significant number of points - nine to be exact - and are in the semi finals of the league cup with many fans realising there were many positives and learning curves to take from their early European exit.
RBM: What has gone right on the domestic front so far, and what went wrong on the European front across the group stage of the UCL?
Domestically, Celtic have been almost impeccable this campaign, winning 16 out of a possible 17 games. The Hoops started the league on fire, continually scoring and keeping clean sheets, an astounding 9-0 win over Dundee United epitomising this early season form. Then just before the first international break of 2022/23, the Bhoys hit somewhat of a stumbling block, suffering their only domestic defeat so far at the hands of St. Mirren.
However after said interval, the Scottish champions got back on form in the league and although their performances haven’t been of the highest calibre in recent weeks, they continue to find ways to win in the face of adversity.
On the European front, it is fair to say Celtic’s Champions League group campaign left many involved with the club disappointed. Nevertheless, the Bhoys’ performances in Europe’s premier club competition were in no way embarrassing with them going head to head with Real Madrid for around 60 minutes. Throughout the group stage, the Parkhead side continually manufactured chances for themselves although they, painstakingly for many, lacked that killer instinct in front of goal.
One wonders what could’ve happened if opportunities were taken yet it must be kept in mind it was Celtic’s first time playing in the competition for five years and also many of the current crop of players’ maiden time turning out in the Champions League.
RBM: Does Celtic FC believe that they’ll be able to hold onto their current boss Ange Postecoglou for much longer? He appears to be a popular name that is bandied about whenever a possible opening in the Premier League is thought to be coming open soon; what makes him so desirable?
Ange Postecoglou is adored by the green half of Glasgow. The Australian has made himself a hero at Celtic as a result of the success he brought in his first year at the club, and although he gets linked with numerous jobs often, the 57 year old is thought to be devoted to Celtic for the long haul. For example, Postecoglou was recently frontrunner for the managerial post of the Japanese national team; however, it came out in the Scottish press that he had rejected interest from elsewhere and would likewise do so in this instance.
What makes Ange so desirable is how much of a uniting, leading figure he is. When he came to Celtic, the club was in complete disarray and in need of a rebuild which Postecoglou spearheaded and completed masterfully. This, combined with the hugely entertaining, attacking football that the Australian implements makes him a vastly attractive manager to be sure.
RBM: What does this team do best when it’s in form and feeling good about themselves?
Celtic’s key strengths lie in attack. When at the top of their game, the Bhoys are extremely difficult to deal with and can cause any team problems through their identifiable free flowing style.
RBM: What does the Celtic squad have to improve upon still, and how can the team finally find some Champions League success again - should they have the chance to participate next season?
It is difficult to find any areas Celtic can improve upon due to the fact they usually dominate and win their domestic games each week however out of their last ten league matches, the Hoops have kept just two clean sheets. This then suggests that the Bhoys may look to tighten up at the back in the league although their attacking prowess has outweighed their defensive frailties in 2022/23 so far.
European football always brings up some points for refinement for the Scottish champions. As discussed earlier, the mantra of Celtic’s Champions League campaign was one of missed chances and should they qualify for the competition once more next season, the Hoops will give themselves a bigger platform for progression if they are more clinical in front of goal.
RBM: How do you expect Celtic to set up on Sunday in Sydney, and which player or players do you think can cause Everton the most issues?
It is hard to say what personnel will start Sunday’s game, however, it is certain Celtic will line up in a typical 4-3-3 formation. The full backs will become inverted in build up play to allow the wingers to get high and wide. There will be one sitting midfielder with the other two men in the engine room getting further forward and causing all sorts of problems for the opposition meanwhile a lone striker will continually look to press with support from the wide men.
In terms of players that can cause Everton problems, there are many. Portuguese winger Jota is a flamboyant outlet who has a wealth of tricks and flicks in his locker; meanwhile, the talismanic striker Kyogo Furuhashi is a massively talented frontman who can get a goal out of almost anything. Further back in midfield, Kyogo’s fellow countryman Reo Hatate is a maestro, and Matt O’Riley, formerly of MK Dons, is a 21 year old who has bags of potential whilst also continually showing maturity way beyond his years.
A special mention should go to Montenegrin international attacker Sead Haksabanovic who averaged a league goal every 55 minutes in Celtic’s three games prior to the World Cup break. It is fair to say there are many opposing players for Everton fans to keep an eye on come Sunday.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s match?
Tough one but as I’m a Celtic fan, I have to back my team so will go with a 2-1 win for the Scottish champions.
Our thanks to Josh for his time.