Victory for Celtic tonight against Benfica in Lisbon, where the eight surviving Glaswegian Lions of 1967 will be special guests, would almost guarantee the Scottish Premier League leaders a place in the knockout stages of the Champions' League for the first time. Despite history indicating caution might be the best approach to avoid a defeat that would allow the Portuguese back into Group F contention, Celtic are intent on attack.
"It will be very much the same as in the last game [when Celtic won 3-0 at Parkhead a fortnight ago]," said Gordon Strachan's deputy, Tommy Burns. "The manager has always had the view that because of the amount of good players we have, we will play on the front foot."
When Celtic became the first British club to win this trophy, every player was home-grown. The absences this evening of the Dutch striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and the Danish midfielder Thomas Gravesen, their two major signings of the summer, hired specifically with Europe in mind, could allow more locals a shot at glory.
Kenny Miller will play up front, while Stephen Pearson might play in midfield. The latter faces competition from the Dutch teenager Evander Sno and the Czech Republic's Jiri Jarosik.
"Certainly we will close space down when we don't have the ball but in the main we will be looking for a positive performance," Burns said. "We've got a lot of good footballers and they are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment. They keep setting themselves different and better standards and if they could get through this one it would take them to another level."
Celtic have failed to win any of their 10 away games in four campaigns in this competition, and the home side have always won 3-0 whenever these teams have met (which is three times before tonight). Benfica's coach, Fernando Santos, reacted to defeat a fortnight ago by claiming: "I'm certain we will win at home."
Benfica warmed up for this match by losing 3-2 to Porto at the weekend while a sluggish Celtic came from behind to win 2-1 at Kilmarnock.
Benfica (possible) 4-2-3-1: Quim; Alcides, Luisao, Anderson, Leo; Katsouranis, Petit; Miccoli, Karagounis, Simao; Nuno Gomes.
Celtic (possible) 4-4-2: Boruc; Telfer, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor; Nakamura, Lennon, Sno, McGeady; Zurawski, Miller.
Referee: K Vassaras (Greece).Reuse content