Celtic’s poor results in their home Champions League group stage matches must have made a lasting impression on manager Brendan Rodgers, as he was far more pragmatic in his team selection and formation in the Europa League last 32 first leg match v Zenit.
The team selected by the Northern Irishman may have looked more cautious than usual – with Callum McGregor playing just behind the lone striker Moussa Dembele – but that wasn’t the case as the Bhoys dominated the game and fashioned plenty of chances.
The real difference was in midfield, were the manager stiffened up that area of the pitch by playing two holding players – Scott Brown, and Eboue Kouassi – with Olivier Ntcham drifting all over the pitch in front of them.
It was a shock that the £3million signing in 2017 started but the use of Kouassi was a masterstroke, as his tenacious play gave him the opportunity to dominate the midfield, and give the Hoops a platform to build on.
The big question ahead is will Rodgers stick with this formation for the second leg in Russia on Thursday? The logical answer would be “yes”, and as it has proved to be so successful that it may well be used in Europe next season, if the Hoops are fortunate enough to qualify for the Champions League group stages once more.
Hopefully the days of meek losses at home in Europe are now a thing of the past thanks to Rodgers’ new-found approach.