CELTIC supporters could be forgiven for not being quite familiar with their opponents in the first knockout round of the Europa Conference League.
When the draw was made and the Glasgow club were matched with Bodo / Glimt, more than a few fans hurriedly searched the Norwegian side on Google to determine who these opponents are.
The first thing they will notice is that this is a relatively small club, historically operating in Norway’s second tier, based in the Arctic Circle. A great discovery for the European ambitions of their club. The second and most alarming anecdote can be found in their recent results: in October, they hammered Jose Mourinho’s Roma 6-1 in the Conference League.
“This victory for Roma has just put them in the spotlight,” said David Weatherston, the former winger for Queen’s Park, St Johnstone and Falkirk. Now retired, the 35-year-old lives in Norway with his family and spends his free time writing detailed blogs about the state of football in his adopted country.
“Last year was the first championship in their history and they followed up with their second Sunday. Historically, they are a second tier team. A lot of it has to do with where it is in the north. In the past two years, it’s just clicked. Everything went perfectly for them.
“The director [Kjetil Knutsen] was promoted about three years ago and he’s still here, but rumor has it that he is set to leave this winter.
“It’s not really the same group [that won back-to-back titles]; there was a huge turnaround from last year. They scored 103 goals in 30 league games last year, then lost 60 when their first three left. [to sign for other clubs].
“They now have a completely different top three and it’s been a little different this year. They’ve scored 59 in 30 games but only conceded 25. So it’s a little different but just as impressive.
As Weatherston brings up the subject, it was Bodo / Glimt’s lightning attack that has proven to be the most formidable weapon in their arsenal. Their emphatic goals may have diminished as players moved to new pastures, but their style of play leaves them perfectly equipped for the demands of European football.
Some might cite their arctic base as a possible reason for their remarkable home form – they’ve won all six European matches at the Aspmyra Stadion this season – but Weatherston believes that doesn’t do Knutsen and his players a favor. .
“I don’t think that’s it,” he said. “It’s a pretty old stadium and it’s pretty open, and it can get windy up there. But I think a lot of teams underestimated them in Europe – Roma certainly did.
“They’re one of those teams where it doesn’t matter who is, the system dictates and it works. The way they play at home – they attack, attack, attack and it’s hard for teams to stop them. They have good talented players and if they attack the whole game they will score goals.
“Lots of teams that came to play at Glimt [in the league] sat 10 men behind the ball and refused to come out and try. They had to find a new way to play this year.
“Last year their play was very much about transition – a quick, quick transition. This is one of the main reasons for their goals in Europe this year. Teams don’t sit that low and that opens up space. They are so quick to attack, it’s just devastating.
“They couldn’t really do that in the league this year. It’s quite similar to Celtic: they press high but they are probably better organized defensively in terms of form. Celtic have a lot of quality – more than Glimt is a whole different ball game, but it’s going to be an interesting game. ”
There are, however, two important advantages Celtic enjoy: Ange Postecoglou’s men will enter the game mid-season, while the first leg in Glasgow will be Bodo / Glimt’s first competitive outing in 2022. In addition, the Norwegians can expect to lose a player. or two during the offseason, with left-back Fredrik Bjorkan having already agreed to a transfer from Bosman to Hertha Berlin.
“The league usually starts on the last weekend in March or the first weekend in April,” Weatherston explained. “The left-back, the best in the league, is at Hertha Berlin. He’s already the one to leave before the game arrives against Celtic, and there is a lot of talk that he won’t be the only one.
“Most players will have contracts that expire at this time of year – I don’t think anyone is in breach of contract – but this is the time of year when business is done.
“A lot of Norwegian teams go to Spain around February and have a preseason there because the weather isn’t really ideal here. That didn’t happen last year with Covid, so it will be interesting to see if it’s possible this time. ”