Celtic will look to secure a place in the main draws of the Europa League as they travel to Friends Arena to take on Allmänna Idrottsklubben or commonly known as AIK. The Swedish side are trailing by two goals to nil so the Glaswegian giants should be in the driving seat to make it through.
The Swedish outfit were second fiddle for most parts of the first leg, and the Hoops clearly looked like the dominant side. Neil Lennon though will need to avoid complacency even though he has a big match at the weekend against Rangers.
Here are the three things which Celtic need to do to ensure they make it to the Europa League.
Get the basics right
Celtic are fighting for Europa instead of the Champions League because they failed to kill off their game against Cluj in the second leg and they made some basic errors against the Romanian opponents. Scott Brown had a blatant handball in the penalty box, and Scott Bain could have done better by parrying the ball away from danger area for another one of Cluj’s goal. Also, 5ft8inches forward Ciprian Deac was able to beat Celtic defenders in the air for the first goal.
All these goals were avoidable, and the Hoops need to be concentrated for the full game. AIK are unlikely to get back into the game unless Celtic give them some major helping hand. Lennon needs to ensure that his players cut down on basic errors and play chanceless football at the back.
Taking care of the left flank
Celtic’s primary weakness has been on their left flank as Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo has looked defensively vulnerable even though he seems eye-catching while going forward. AIK meanwhile depend heavily in building up from their right-hand side, and we can expect a lot of crosses to be thrown in the box for Henok Goitom and Kolbeinn Sigþórsson who are known to be good in the air.
Robert Lundström or Heradi Rashidi are likely to start on the right flank and Celtic will need to make sure that they stop the crosses coming in from the source. Ryan Christie or Michael Johnston might start down the left-wing and whoever starts will need to track back and help Bolingoli in defence.
Not allowing Sebastian Larsson time in central areas
The 34-year-old former Arsenal midfielder will often drop in deep to get on the ball, and he will look to put in long diagonals to either of his fullbacks or runs from strikers through the middle. AIK usually play with two strikers, and that is something Celtic might not be used to much in domestic games.
Therefore giving Larsson too much time on the ball to pick out his passes could prove costly. Celtic’s attacking midfielder or striker will need to keep him in check by closing him down quickly to stop him from picking up passes from deep.