Home form key for Celtic in Europe

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Home form key for Celtic in Europe

GLASGOW, Scotland - Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yeung said Celtic needs to win all their home games if they are to qualify from their UEFA Europa League group, starting with the visit of Udinese Calcio this Thursday.

The Italian side, which shares the top slot of Serie A after three games, defeated Rennes in the opening Group I fixture, while the Celts slumped to a 2-0 away defeat against Atletico Madrid.

But despite conceding that they face a tough task to qualify from the group, Ki has targeted home dominance as the key to progressing.

“It is not going to be an easy game against Udinese as they are a good side and also they are doing very well in the Italian league,” the Korean international said.

“But it is our home game, which means that we have a lot of fans behind us. We have an advantage for it, so we just want to try our best and want to win the game.”

“Home advantage is very important. Away games are not easy, especially in the Europa League or Champions League, so we should at least draw one of our away games and we should win all our home games. That is our target,” Ki said.

“We have just played one game. If we win this game against Udinese, we still have a chance.”

“But it is not going to be an easy match. We have to work at our best and especially if we get a chance, we need to score a goal. Otherwise it is going to be hard. But we still have confidence,” he added.

It is a second chance in Europe for Celtic after the squad was reinstated in the competition by UEFA when FC Sion, who beat Celtic 3-1 in qualifying, was thrown out after the team was judged to have fielded ineligible players.

However, manager Neil Lennon admitted that next Sunday’s Scottish Premier League match against Hearts held more importance for the club than progression in the Europa League.

“Both games are important, but the priority is the championship,” Lennon said.

“But I will be looking for a better performance after the Atletico Madrid game. We have had a lot of good reports on Udinese. It’s a game to whet the appetite for the players and the supporters.”

Celtic warmed up for the match against Udinese with a clinical performance in a 2-0 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday that kept them four points behind rivals Rangers at the top of the SPL.

Rangers had piled the pressure on the Celts as goals from Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and a Steven Naismith double helped thrash Dunfermline 4-0.

But Celtic responded in positive fashion with first-half strikes from Joe Ledley and James Forrest, enough to defeat bottom-of-the-table Inverness.

Celtic will have to face the Italians with a makeshift defense after Lennon revealed center back Kelvin Wilson has been ruled out for up to 10 weeks, joining Emilio Izaguirre and Scott Brown on the treatment table.

“He has got a tear in the Achilles’ tendon. He had a scan yesterday and the specialist said it could take as long as that,” the Celtic manager said.

“It is a huge blow considering we already have Emilio Izaguirre out so it just means we have to rejig things defensively.

“Charlie Mulgrew was out with suspension, but he will be back in contention for both games this week. He has been playing very well and he makes us better.”

Striker Gary Hooper was taken off as a precaution in the match against Inverness following a knock to the leg, but Lennon said he hoped to have him available for Thursday.


AFP


한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]

물오른 기성용, “내가 제일 잘 나가~”



기성용(22·셀틱)이 올 시즌 유럽에서 뛰고 있는 해외파 중 가장 두드러진 활약을 이어가고 있다. 기성용은 25일(이하 한국시간) 새벽 셀틱파크에서 열린 스코틀랜드 프리미어리그 2011~2012 정규리그 인버네스와의 홈경기에서 시즌 두 번째 도움을 기록했다.

1-0으로 앞선 전반 33분 역습 상황, 하프라인에서 공을 잡은 기성용은 한 차례 볼터치 후 최전방으로 돌진하던 제임스 포레스트에게 정확한 땅볼 패스를 찔러줬다. 수비수가 닿지 않은 공간을 파고든 30m 중거리 패스였다. 포레스트는 페널티박스 아크서클에서 오른발로 골을 성공시켰다. 셀틱은 2-0으로 승리, 6승2패(승점 18점)로 선두 레인저스(7승1무·승점 22점)를 4점차로 추격했다.

기성용은 최근 3경기 연속 공격포인트를 이어갔다. 지난 11일 마더웰전에서 시즌 3호골, 지난 18일 레인저스전에서 1호 도움에 이어 이날 2호 도움으로 맹활약했다. 이로써 기성용은 정규리그 8경기에 모두 선발로 출장, 3골 2도움을 기록중이다.

기성용은 개막전부터 주전 자리를 꿰차면서 자신감이 상승하고 셀틱에서 세 시즌째를 맞이하며 경기를 보는 시야가 좋아졌다. 기성용은 지난 7월 24일 하이버니언과의 리그 개막전에서 마수걸이 골을 터뜨렸다. 경기 MVP로 선정되면서 닐 레넌 감독과 동료의 신임을 받았다.

2010년 1월 셀틱에 이적한 기성용은 이제 리그에 완벽하게 적응한 모습이다. 상대와의 거친 몸싸움도 마다하지 않고 상대 공격을 차단해 전방으로 공을 전달하는 역할을 잘 수행하고 있다. 킥이 정확해 세트 피스에서는 전담 키커로 나선다. 킥이 좋은 그는 기습적인 중거리슈팅으로 골을 노린다. 2골을 중거리슈팅으로 넣었다.

기성용은 오는 30일 새벽에 열리는 우디네세와의 유로파리그에 대비, 이날 후반 32분 사라마스와 교체되며 체력을 아꼈다. 아틀레티코 마드리드(스페인)·우디네세(이탈리아)·스타드 렌(프랑스)과 I조에 속한 셀틱은 조별리그 1차전에서 아틀레티코 마드리드에 0-2로 패했다. 우디네세와의 홈경기는 반드시 승리해야 한다.

기성용은 25일 AFP와 인터뷰에서 "우디네세는 이탈리아에서 잘하는 팀이기에 쉽지는 않을 것이다. 하지만 우리는 홈팬들의 응원을 받으며 경기하는 이점이 있다"고 말했다. 그는 "홈 어드밴티지는 중요하다. 우리의 목표는 홈경기는 모두 이기는 것"이라고 강조했다.

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